I am not really a fan of romantic movies, particularly mainstream ones. However, this one is different because it is written and directed by Antoinette Jadaone. She was the creative force behind "That Thing Called Tadhana," "English Only Please," and "#Walang Forever," all of which I liked. I thought it was safe to assume that she will come up with something I would like.
This latest one features the young love team of Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia, which first came out in a Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 film called "Vince and Kath and James."
Their performances in that film, which was one of the box-office hits of the controversial festival, were widely praised. I wanted to see these two up and coming stars in action.
A distraught Mika (Julia Barretto) drove away from her house going to Batangas because his widower dad (Ariel Rivera) announced that his girlfriend Sheryl (Maricar Reyes) is pregnant. A cheerful Caloy (Joshua Garcia) rode his bike from their place in Lemery going towards the house of his rich estranged father to reconnect with him. While taking a bathroom break very coincidentally in the middle of the same remote grassy field, the two meet in less than ideal circumstances.
Caloy injured his left foot, so Mika felt compelled to drive him to his destination. As would be expected, the two share their stories with each other during their long drive. Caloy revealed he was suffering from leukemia, and his family (mom Cherry Pie Picache and brother Edgar Allan Guzman) is selling everything to raise the money for a bone marrow transplant. Mika confessed that she wanted to do something her late mother (Carmina Villaroel) used to talk about -- go climb up Mt. Milagros in order to invite aliens to come and abduct her.
Movies about attractive young people in love but stricken with cancer belong to a familiar genre of its own. This was the plot of such famous films over the years like "Love Story" (1970), "Dying Young" (1991), "Sweet November" (2001), "A Walk to Remember" (2002), and of course the most recent one "The Fault in Our Stars" (2014) (MY REVIEW). A story about pristine innocent young love tragically interrupted by death by cancer is simply unmatched for be able to jerk tears out of even for the most jaded eyes.
Jadaone added a lot of little side stories to give this classic central plot her own spin. There was a major detour about how the two got their pet chicken Goldie and how that name came about. There was another detour about how the two helped a teenage girl Rhonabelle make her Junior-Senior prom a memorable one. Family issues on both sides also take up a significant amount of time, as these two kids are acting this way because of how their families, especially their fathers, were.
AC most bizarre plot point though was the alien angle. It sounded awkward when Mika first mentioned it, and more so when she began reciting her alien call chant. It was very foolish to drive around in circles in a dark forest looking for aliens, believing that wearing clothes inside out can help you find your way. Later on when you see how high up on top of a towering rock (another breathtaking view reminiscent of Kiltepan in "Tadhana") that alien contact spot was, it became rather absurd that they were actually planning to climb up in the dead of the night.
Any which illogical ways the story went though, there is no denying that Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto make a very charming pair. Their bubbly vibrant personalities made all their whole road trip worth watching despite the many branches it took. Not even toilet humor nor overt melodrama nor disgusting puke could faze their winning chemistry.
This Joshua Garcia really knows how to turn on the charm with the ladies. Comparisons to a young John Lloyd Cruz are not exaggerated. There were some angles when he did look like Cruz. Julia Barretto can really play it spirited and feisty. Comparisons to her aunt Claudine Barretto in her prime are also well-deserved. She did not falter and held her own during that major dramatic scene of Garcia on the bridge.
Jadaone can really create uniquely Pinoy situations to generate romantic thrills in her mostly millennial audience. The OPM ballad "Torete" may be more than 15 years old already, but it was used to great effect here to enhance the mood. Because of its easy emotional connection with its demographic, I think it is safe to predict that this will follow the recent box office success of romantic films like "Kita Kita" and "100 Tula ni Stella." 8/10.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."