Summer MMFF review: Bela Padilla levels up with 'Yung Libro sa Napanood Ko'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Apr 12 2023 07:46 PM | Updated as of Apr 12 2023 10:42 PM

Viva Films
Yoo Min-gon and Bela Padilla in 'Yung Libro Sa Napanood Ko.' Viva Films

Lisa Villamor (Bela Padilla) is a 20-something young woman, who was a loner and an introvert. She would rather curl up at home to watch the latest K-dramas streaming online than go out with her officemates. She was very obsessed with the last K-drama she finished, "To Room Nineteen," watching it while at work and crying her heart out the whole time. Her biggest frustration was that she could not get hands on a hard copy of the book. 

Not long after, Lisa wrote her own novel inspired by this elusive book, which she entitled "Yung Libro sa Napanood Ko" ("The Book in the Show I Watched"). To promote the book, she made the rounds of talk shows, one hosted by Boy Abunda. She also had book signings in various bookstores. A Korean man named Kim Gun-hoo (Yoo Min-gon) asked for Lisa's autograph on his copy of her book and dedicated it to a woman named Mary.

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With this new film, Bela Padilla proved that "366" (2022), her first attempt as a triple-threat filmmaker (director, writer and actor), was no fluke. This time, she even levelled up, adding producer to her credits, and embarking on an international project set in South Korea with Korean actors in the cast. She just starred in "Ultimate Oppa" (2022), a film with two Korean leading men and a Korean director. This time, she's crafted her very own K-movie.

Bela's story and screenplay was quite unusual, both in concept and in execution. Even if the story used a trope very commonly seen in melodramas throughout history of film, the way it was used here was still novel, especially the way the director finally revealed her gambit unexpectedly after the first hour. An emotionally surprising twist as remarkable as this is rare among recent Filipino films, which sadly had become quite predictable.

As an actress, Bela Padilla is expectedly very adept in challenging offbeat dramatic roles like this. Her Korean lines were delivered like a native. Her Korean leading man Yoo Min-gon may be 34 years old, but his filmography is still quite sparse, hence coming off a bit rough around the edges in some of his awkward scenes. The romantic chemistry between them was not instant. However by the climactic reveal down to the ending, he's got us on his side. 7/10. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."