Film shifted much of the process to the shooting experience and, for many, there was very little in the way of post-processing. You could do B&W darkroom work, but most didn't, and color PP was beyond the capabilities or most people. Film took away many of the decisions we face today. I think part of the problem with the digital workflow today is that people are paralyzed by choices. Programs like PS give the user so much control that many feel they have to process every shot whether they want to or not.
I am an old film shooter of many decades, and still don't know what a certain film is suppose to look like.
I don't use film filters; I use film, the best possible way to get the "film look"; it's what I learned the craft on and a digital equivalent - well - isn't, really, though it may be lovely in its own right. I remember years ago I shot several rolls of technical pan and developed them in its own compensating developer because it was said to give you "almost large format" resolution from a 35mm negative. Well, it gave you tons of resolution, and you could get it to represent a decent tonal scale, but it was no replacement for a 4x5 setup, which I very shortly after bought and learned to use. I have a very stubborn conviction that things are what they are.
One thing: I do not think that photography's dependence on the physical world is a "burden"; it is, rather, its special privilege. When I took up the craft I was a pie in the sky philosophical idealist. I couldn't get enough of philosophizing that pretty much indicated that the world was a mirage. Give me Bishop Berkeley or give me death. A friend of mine told me he thought I was the last living Platonist. Well discovering Alfred North Whitehead and photography at about the same time helped me to connect emotionally and intellectually with the "blunt matter of fact", as Whitehead puts it, of a creative universe. Like it or not, the world is what we have; we make our way, earn our salvation (I do not mean that theologically, something I could not care less about), in it or not at all. It doesn't mean we have to see with vulgar, mean, blunt sight, but it means if we are going to see more, we have to see through, not around, what is there. That's the gift of photography. As Weston said (more or less) "All of Brancusi's forms are there, before my lens." Photography has the great benefit of making us point to the world and helps us to know that to transform it (into art, or justice, or any other thing), or to be transformed BY it, we have to see it and point to it first.
It is not a burden; it is a liberation.
This is one of the big problems; Calling a filter "Tri-X" doesn't make the image look like Tri-X, for instance, because there's no such thing as a Tri-X "look". That is just a name that has become associated in the latterday as denoting a certain grainy, contrasty sort of image. But I could put prints in anyone's hand that were shot on Tri-X that show no grain and have a soft contrast and long scale.
I suspect that relatively few people who are using digital "filters" or any of the wide variety of PP options available have recently handled a wet print. Almost all film images are now viewed on screens and are the result of negative scans. These bear very little relationship to how film "really" looks. (I use the word "really" advisedly)
So what seems to have happened is that people look to make "film-like" images which are in fact redolent of a "look" that is itself created by, and has become familiar from, the digitisation of the film image, and not inherent in the film image itself. Film was never created, remember, to be digitised.
Now, I'm not in the smallest way interested in "filters" or PP, and really it doesn't matter a damn to me whether people process their images with a filter called "Tri-X" or "Velvia 50 RVP", but let's not lose sight of the fact that these are simply names for filters, and bear only the slightest relationship to what film can look like.
And don't get me started on photography's relationship (or lack of it) to "reality". There's some very muddled thinking going on about that, including in the OP; Better to have a read of Barthes, Berger and Sontag as a starting place for clear thinking.