By Lei Landicho
Ever since The Breakup Playlist, Dan Villegas has been on a short list of rom-com directors whose work exudes originality in content and structure. He made us reminisce on past romances in The Breakup Playlist and learn when to let go and love again in English Only, Please. In his 2015 MMFF entry, #WalangForever, it would seem that he still strives to achieve novelty in his narrative. The only difference of this new film from the others is that it struggles to find a consistent ambiance and a believable story that could merit itself a Best Film Award.
A rom-com writer in her prime, Mia (Jennylyn Mercado), faces a drought of inspiration as she realizes that she hasn’t fallen in love for a long time. She bumped into Ethan (Jericho Rosales), her former long-time partner, in the most opportune time. Mia was to write a script for an upcoming romcom film which may ultimately define her career. The two past lovers were unwelcoming at first but thawed down eventually when they realized that they still love each other.
#WalangForever was meant to be a romantic comedy, but it seemed that the comedy part lost its way to the fore. The first half of the film is a random sprout of quips and gags that are uncoordinated and just don’t work. And then, without establishing the light atmosphere of a romcom, the film suddenly took a turn and instantly became heavy and dramatic. Hence, without forewarning, the audience is slapped with sad and depressing realities of life while enjoying the cloud nine of love and kilig.
The emotional transition of the plot lost the audience gradually. This may come from the loose integration of subplots. There are simple insufficiencies that could provide context: why a petty fight would result in several years of breakup, why being back together seemed too easy after a hurtful separation, and why was there no struggle in choosing between career and family versus love. These gaffes further aggravated the movie’s struggle to redeem lost spectators. And until the end, it was without success.
Above all these, Jennylyn and Jericho did a wonderful job in portraying love-struck and heartbroken characters. The script which provided them enough leeway as artists resulted in various natural and realistic conversations. Alongside are supporting actors and actresses who provided spaces to breathe in an unexpectedly heavy-themed movie.
This movie reflects one reality in cinema – that there is no style or formula that lives forever. Villegas’ treatment with his earlier films might have pleased the audience. But with his latest offering, he might need to revisit some principles and techniques.