Missed Connections is a film that makes a one-minute scene stretch for 10 minutes with an excessively irritating performance from the female lead, a story that feels more like it belongs to a YouTube video than a movie, and a runtime that drags along for almost 2 hours when it could well have been wrapped in less than 15 minutes. It is surprising to see Netflix produce such a film that struggles throughout its runtime, from the script to the visuals and music. Missed Connections seems like an amateur effort which would still have worked if there was some honesty in its storytelling. It is more sketchy than it is revealing; it doesn’t even manage to look “cinematic,” as termed by many tutorial videos online, and it dies a slow death at its own hands with its underwhelming aesthetics. If cinema is a language, this is the kind of film to which it should not lend its voice at all.
At the center of its lousy aesthetics is the simple story of a struggling entrepreneur named Mae, who sells customized T-shirt online on a website that is not getting a good response. Mae has had a breakup recently, and she keeps speaking to her ex throughout the film in her imagination. One day, while shopping at a grocery store, Mae comes across Norman and instantly feels a spark for him. After somehow finding him on social media, the two meet, only to discover that Norman was, in fact, expecting to meet someone else. Norman is a web designer, and he agrees to help Mae with her website.
Meanwhile, Mae gets obsessed with Norman and with having him love her back. The entire film is then about this obsession, which leads to various troubles for both Mae and Norman. In trying to explore the prevalent theme of loneliness in modern relationships, Missed Connections, in turn, gets obsessive with its bad storytelling. It leaves you with no feeling of anticipation for what’s going to happen next. It would have worked better if it was wrapped up quickly, with most of the scenes cut short entirely. Jelise Chang says the same thing over and over in all the scenes without a single layer of emotion beneath the surface. While the initial concept is still understandable, it is totally ruined by the kind of screenplay the film is supported by and the caricature-ish treatment of the characters. It would have worked if the emotional depth had been explored further and the themes of obsession had been given a better portrayal on screen.
Chang definitely wants to make a point about love in the age of social media and how it creates a certain idea of love in the minds of many that, when not fulfilled, takes your mind on a trip. The character of Mae carries a lot of baggage from her past and forces the idea of love into her life to shoo away the loneliness. Having been dumped by her boyfriend recently, all she craves is a genuine connection. This makes her a borderline creep as she interacts with Norman and tries to pull him towards her with her tactics. She is a representation of what could happen to a person who creates the wrong ideas about love in their head. All of this raw material is wasted because it is not explored the way it should be. The screenplay lacks the maturity that the story demands, and Chang’s ideas never find a fulfilling expression through the narrative. There are scenes that have the potential to communicate vulnerable emotions but are missed to a large degree due to the sloppy handling of the material. Chang’s lack of a proper vision is widely apparent in the way she chose to let the performance of Miles Ocampo be the way it is. Ocampo is outright annoying, and you don’t want to see her doing what she does for more than a minute. She is overtly expressive in a childish manner that is not so characteristic of her existence in Missed Connections.
The tempo in her performance is always high, putting you on the edge of cringing all the time. Kelvin Miranda barely succeeds in playing the part of Norman in expressing his awkwardness and obsession to want things organized and clean. This trait that is given to him is completely forgotten in the second half, and it rips up any chance of giving him some dimensionality. He looks more like a school-going nerd than a 25-year-old computer geek. The only saving grace in this debacle is JC Santos, who plays Mark, Mae’s ex-boyfriend. His performance adds some spark between the scenes in a part that is again overwritten. After a point, you keep wondering about the motive of the useless conversations that he is made to be a part of with Mae, as they lead nowhere and are just meant to be Mae’s conscience. It is sad that a good actor is used for a role that is just meant to give some forced comic relief.
Missed Connections is a failure in all departments; it doesn’t look like a film, it doesn’t behave like a film, but it sure wants to be a film. Jelise Chang has a lot of reflection to do on the nature of her aesthetics and how they have come out in the film. Her ideas show some potential, but her filmmaking completely dumps them to the bottom. The film doesn’t do anything but frustrate you all the way through. You would be forced to reach for the fast-forward button as it moves like a snail. And for that, this connection is best to be avoided.