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By Heinrich Domingo

This time, director Antoinette Jadaone bit more than she can chew. Her magic can only go so far in bringing the best out of a problematic plot and an ensemble of lowly to mediocre talents. With all these, All You Need is Pag-ibig ended up as a mishmash of incompetent cast, lame script, and messy plot.

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The film narrates the entwined lives of twelve characters all facing love crises. It then goes on to tell that love takes in many forms such as filial, romantic, sisterly, and many others. Eventually, people in the story realized that love does not usually end up with all laughter and contentment. Usually, it is partnered with disappointment, pain, or even indifference.

After directing well-loved films like That Thing Called Tadhana, You’re My Boss and Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, Jadaone seemed to lose her signature witticism and natural ability to connect with her audience. Previously, the quality of cinema pieces she delivers has the ability to exponentially increase a town’s tourism (Sagada in Mountain Province), pay tribute to an unappreciated bit player (Lilia Cuntapay), and popularize a country’s jewel (Batanes). Her films were forwarding advocacies while earning big-time.  Yet, the latest movie she delivered took a different path.

I believe that All You Need is Pag-ibig’s flop began in selecting an inappropriate roster of actors and actresses. Drama movies that push for Kris Aquino and her son Bimby to act onscreen are likely to fail. Among the dozen of characters portrayed, I can pinpoint only two who showed an affective performance – Jaime (played by Ronaldo Valdez) and Loisa (played by Nova Villa). Their portrayal of an elderly romance that needs reigniting can be a stand-alone movie. Other cast members are merely beautiful faces to fill the space of the big screen. Kim Chiu (playing Anya) cannot give more than her typical cute but silly face. Xian Lim (playing Dino) has gained bigger muscles but not enough to show an expressive face. And Talia and Julia Concho (Kelsey and Hannah)obviously got their roles just because of being granddaughters of the ABS-CBN president. And the movie error list goes on.

Another failure of the film are the not so powerful lines delivered by the characters. Surely, All You Need is Pag-ibig does not have the worst screenplay in the festival. Yet, knowing that Jadaone, who have written many good screenplays, took part in the script, the work is disappointing. The beginning of the film is supposed to introduce the funny and lighthearted characters of Kim, Jodi Sta. Maria (playing Mel), and Xian. But, their lines, though obviously trying to be funny, do not solicit enough reaction from the crowd. There is no artistry in the script. Lines delivered are nothing but the obvious manifestations on what is happening on the screen.

Looking at the bigger picture, the director, the cast, and the script might not be the biggest reasons for the film’s failure. It may come from the convoluted nature of the plot. Truly, it is difficult to pull off one narrative involving twelve indirectly related characters. While the general theme of introducing facets of love is quite clear, the movie wants to do so many things all at once. The audience can feel the struggle of the story to tie up all the presented relationships and end them smoothly. Still, it ended insufficiently.

The quality of its MMFF competitors makes this movie more beautiful than it really is. I think of an endless list why All You Need is Pag-ibig failed to be a hit. It might be because of its incompetent cast, lame script, or messy plot. Or maybe, it is a too ambitious project for a young director to make. Whatever reason we might think of, this film will be a good reminder for Antoinette Jadaone to go back on her feet and make an outstanding movie once again.

2.5 stars

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