Hazel Ilagan was a popular child actress whose showbiz career was on the wane as she grew beyond her teenage years. Louie Puyat was a Pinoy who lived in Japan since he was 10 years old, now making a living as a fisherman and a waiter in the outskirts of Saga City. One day, Hazel impulsively left for Japan after a major argument with her nagging mother, and fortuitously found herself in the restaurant where Louie worked. Despite their differences in interests and attitudes, Louie agreed to guide Hazel around town, and eventually, with her life choices.
Julia Barretto had a tough role to play. Hazel is a very immature and petulant spoiled brat who believed that everyone around her is at her beck and call. Needless to say, this was one loud, annoying, self-centered character who was quite unlikable. The script blamed her parents for raising her wrongly with their misguided intentions. But really, as she grew up to young adulthood, shouldn't she already know right from wrong? She was already aware that her popularity was sagging, yet there she was still acting like a diva.
For me, "Between Maybes" belonged more to Gerald Anderson. Since he grew up in Japan, his Louie had fully imbibed the Japanese way of life. He was a true gentleman who never took advantage of this rebelling girl who was practically giving herself to him. He was kind and patient, keeping a respectable distance through all her foolishness, until that moment came when he already felt that she was finally already thinking straight. His calm face and demeanor was the personification of Japanese zen.
Anderson and Barretto, being from different batches of actors, eight years apart in real life, were not predictable casting choices for a romantic pair. Louie was older and had already made major decisions in his life -- decisions that Hazel was only about to make in her life. This was why there was a need to cast someone older (and wiser) to guide this poor little lost girl to make the right choices in life. However, this is also the reason why the romance angle does not stick too well. Louie felt too much like an elder brother to Hazel rather than a boyfriend.
In supporting roles were Yayo Aguila as Myra, Hazel's stage mother from hell, and Christian Vasquez as Jerry, her wimpy father. Aguila's characterization of Myra is a resonant cautionary message to enthusiastic parents who are pushing their cute kids into showbiz and striking while the iron is hot without regard for the child's welfare. A Japanese actress Kayoko Iwasaki played Louie's boss in Saga with the unfortunate name of Ms. Sadako (like the girl who crawled out of the TV in "Ringu"), who showed concern over his loneliness.
The script gave Barretto some pretty awkward things to do and lines to say. During the first day she met Louie, she was also the one who broached the subject of a sexual hookup right there and then in her hotel room. Later in the film, she also took the initiative for her to stay overnight in Louie's house, and then in his room. While I realize that sexual mores among the millennials are more liberal nowadays, these scenes did not sit well with a person my age who would be protective of Hazel as my own daughter.
The shots by director of photography Carlos David S. Mauricio were vibrantly beautiful with amazingly bright colors, especially those scenes in the seaside village outside Saga, Japan. The eclectic musical soundtrack went from "squammy" hip-hop to cheesy '90s pop, but the main theme song was the chill and romantic “Your Universe,” as sung by Acel Van Ommen.
Overall, this film directed by Jason Paul Laxamana not only looked and sounded gorgeous, but it also delivered an important lesson about making mature decisions in life as responsible adults.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."