Over the past couple of weeks, Kita Kita has been lauded as a surprise box office hit. The film seems to hit all the right notes: it has the heartwarming premise of a not-conventionally-attractive man teaching a blind, embittered, beautiful woman to embrace life again. Both Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy Marquez are absolutely charming in their roles as Lea and Tonyo, and the movie is set against the backdrop of Sapporo. The tone of the entire film is hopeful and light, injected with a good dose of Pinoy humor.
I really wanted to like this film—and in some ways, I did. I laughed out loud along with the rest of the audience, and I found the scenes of Lea and Tonyo dancing in different locations irresistibly cute. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something about their courtship was inherently creepy. (Spoilers ahead!)
In the first place, if a man keeps visiting a blind woman's home even if it was made it clear he was unwelcome, one hopes that her next step would be to call the police. It’s a good thing Lea eventually welcomed his visits, but what would have happened if she hadn’t? When would he have stopped badgering her?
When Lea finally agrees to be Tonyo’s tour guide, the ways in which Empoy jokingly takes advantage of her blindness—sidling up to her until she slaps or pushes him away, making kissy faces at her, or putting his arms around her while pretending to play “open the basket”—are obviously intended to be cute and funny, but they are reminiscent of stories of creeps on public transporation taking similar advantage of women.
A twist towards the end of the movie reveals just how disturbing Tonyo’s behavior really is. As it turns out, he isn’t just a friendly neighbor—he’s actually a stalker. He encountered Lea on the street while he was piss-drunk, decided she was pretty, and followed her home. He collapses in front of her house, where she mistakes him for a homeless person and feeds him cabbages every day.
After a few days, he sobers up and moves into a house across from hers. He follows her around while she works as a tour guide. When she waits for her fiancé at the bar where he works, he’s sitting in the background, dressed up as a banana. A drunken Lea calls him over, and even as they drink, dance, and ring the “Bell of Happiness,” he never tells her his name. When she has her pictures taken in a photobooth, he steals the prints. And it’s he who sends Lea a note telling her to meet her fiancé at a beer garden, so she can discover him cheating on her. As a result of the emotional stress, she goes blind, and it's only then that Tonyo works up the courage to properly introduce himself.
Honestly, instead of “Two Less Lonely People in the World,” the movie’s theme song should have been “Every Breath You Take.” The film is a stalker’s fantasy. It presents Tonyo’s actions as sweet rather than scary, and ends with him getting the girl. It employs the trope of a nice guy pining after a girl who’s dating a jerk, and seems to say that while you’re putting up with the wrong guy, Mr. Right could be hidden in plain sight. The story appeals to its audiences because here, the underdog is rewarded for his persistence.
The appeal should make us pause: Why do we encourage persistence? Why isn't it enough when a woman says “no” the first time? (And no, it's no different whether the guy in question is handsome or not). If Tonyo had really just happened to live across the street, approached Lea with no ulterior motives, and fallen in love with her, then it could have made for a beautiful film.
After all, the title Kita Kita, or “I see you,” is meant to be touching. It’s probably meant to symbolize how Tonyo sees through Alessandra’s guardedness, and how Alessandra, because of her blindness, is able to love Tonyo for who he is, even if he’s not conventionally good-looking. After all, isn't that all anyone wants—to be seen and loved? But because Tonyo started out as a stalker, the words “Kita kita” take on a more sinister tone.
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