As Hello, Love, Goodbye becomes the highest-grossing Filipino film of all time, it is essential to examine the elements of its success. In so doing, we have to look at the trends in the popular cinema in the Philippines. In this video essay, we argue that #HelloLoveGoodbye is a pastiche – an imitation of various film styles, techniques, and narratives that worked in the past.
As Cathy Garcia’s most recent film becomes the highest-grossing Filipino film of all time, we cannot help but ask the questions of what makes it special? How did it amass this box office profit? Is it such a revolutionary work deserving of the attention it received? The short answer is a clear no. Hello, Love, Goodbye, like much of other popular films of Garcia-Molina, consciously decides not to experiment or to revolutionize. Instead, it is a film work that combines tried-and-tested film elements to create an output that is safe and certain.
Hello, Love, Goodbye tells the tale of two OFWs in Hong Kong. Both try to solve the financial burden and other responsibilities of adult life. They met and found comfort with each other’s sorrows.
The story of Joy and Ethan resonates with common Filipinos. Their financial struggles are familiar to the audience in their mid-20s trying to provide for their family while searching for their value and purpose in life. While not many of the viewers are OFWs in Hong Kong, the social pressure of earning money while being above the rest of your peers is familiar and relatable.
Cathy Garcia Molina’s films effectively capture the pathos of the popular Filipino crowd in these ways. Her films center around the middle-class millennial fantasy – one which suggests that people actually have a choice between love and success. This fantasy suggests that young people really have a shot in a successful life. They just have to work hard and set aside worldly distractions such as love affairs. She fails to mention, though, that real life is different – that in the actual world, people do not get both. Garcia Molina allows the audience to live in this fantasy. For an hour and a half, she allows the audience to feel as if their dreams and aspirations matter. That they do have control of their lives. And because of all these, the audience loves her back.
To understand the box office success of Hello, Love, Goodbye, it is important to recognize a trend in the Philippine popular cinema – the act of pastiche. Here, filmmakers copy a seemingly unique quality or style of other filmmakers. It is not done as a critique or a parody though. Instead, it is a celebration, a recognition that such style has worked in the past.
In Hello, Love, Goodbye, we see how Cathy Garcia-Molina once again chose to copy proven and tested sub-plots: The OFW narrative, OFWs in HongKong, OFWs finding love, OFWs falling-in-love, choosing between love and career, eventually choosing own happiness.
Not only does she make reference from the works of other filmmakers. She copies from her own films too, a self-cannibalization. The responsibility of contributing to the family, the kilig of chasing someone, dealing with adult responsibilities.
This has been the system of Filipino popular cinema. Studios fear experimentation as they feel that they have found the formula to yield a higher return of investment. For one, if we list the highest-grossing films of Philippine cinema, we see same names of actors, filmmakers, and producers.
In a way, this safe choice in filmmaking is understandable, given that studios in the country have far more limited resources than their international counterparts.
Some can even argue that these sure-hit genre films saved the once dying Philippine cinema in a time when the industry is plagued with overflowing Hollywood offerings, robust film piracy, and heavy taxation on films.
Despite these undeniable achievements of popular cinema, it is significant to recognize how problematic they can be.
As raised by Fredric Jameson in his discussion of pastiche, the world of pastiche disjuncts the connection between humans and history. We have come to a point when film styles, plots, and genres are copied and replayed without understanding where they may come from. Through the exploitation of the OFW genre, we have forgotten how these films are actually commentaries on the dying labor industry in the 90s and 2000s.
Through the cannibalization of the middle-class narrative, we lost its call for social and economic equality.
You are not to blame if you liked Hello, Love, Goodbye. For one, it means that you remain rooted in the plight of common Filipinos in your generation.
Hello, Love, Goodbye is years in the making. It is a product of an on-going film movement that resorts to safe bets and easy formulations.
It is important to reflect then on the popularity of films like these. What are the implications of this genre and formula to our film viewing experience? And what do these film trends and phenomena say about our society at large?
We included these films in the discussion as well:
The Hows of Us (2018); My Exs and Whys (2017); One More Chance (2007); Got To Believe in Magic (2002); Last Night (2017); That Thing Called Tadhana (2014); Sid and Aya: Not a Love Story (2018); Four Sisters and A Wedding (2013); Anak (2000); Sunday Beauty Queen (2016); Kita Kita (2017); Milan (2004); Alone Together (2019); Never Not Love You (2018); Four Sisters and A Wedding (2013); Amnesia Girl (2010); A Second Chance (2015); Barcelona: A Love Untold (2016); That Thing Called Tadhana (2014); and Last Night (2017)