Movie review: 'Always' succeeds because of KimXi chemistry

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 28 2022 02:29 PM

 Kim Chiu and Xian Lim in 'Always'
Kim Chiu and Xian Lim in 'Always'

Lino Alabin (Xian Lim) is bitter young man who lived alone with his pet tortoise. He used to be a champion boxer, an Asia-Pacific title contender, but has since retired. He now juggled two menial jobs to make ends meet as water delivery boy and a parking cashier of a building. One day, he agreed to take over an older man's duty at the cashier's booth. Little did he know that this decision of his would change how his sad life had run so far. 

That night, Lino met a sweet optimistic girl named Anna Alfonso (Kim Chiu), who worked as a clerk at the OFW recruitment agency in the building. After work, she would visit the older parking cashier to share food and watch soap operas with him on his phone. Since three years ago, Anna had a condition that rendered her practically blind. Aside from her kindness, Lino was fascinated with Anna's independence even with her visual impairment.

This film directed by Dado C. Lumibao had been adapted by writer Mel Mendoza-Del Rosario from a 2011 Korean film of the same title co-written and directed by Song Il-go. Viva Films had been busy mining Korean cinema for stories that they can adapt into the Filipino setting. Just last year, they had done "More Than Blue," "The Housemaid" and their biggest success so far, the award-winning Metro Manila Film Fest entry "A Hard Day." 

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The love story that developed between the two orphans Lino and Anna may seem simple and straightforward at the start. Anna's relentless positive attitude in life despite her blindness was eventually able to draw a pessimistic miserable Lino from out of the dark shadow cast on his life. However, being an adaptation from a Korean film, there would, of course, be a major complicating twist to elevate the story up another level of emotional punch. 

I had not seen the original film, but on its own, this Filipino version, despite some errors in continuity, medical inaccuracies and a rather overlong ending melodrama, succeeds because of star power and dramatic chops of the two lead stars Kim Chiu and Xian Lim. Their irresistible chemistry sweeps absorbs the audience into their bittersweet love story. Chiu is effortlessly delightful. Lim is impressive in the way he took on grueling physicality of his role. 

This story of "Always" has been tried and true, audience-tested several times over already. It had been remade in Turkish, Kannada (India), Hindu, Japanese and now, Filipino. However, I am still hopeful that a Filipino film can also come up with an all-original story that will sweep us off our feet and tug at our heartstrings as much as previous box-office hit Filipino adaptations of Korean films "Miss Granny" or "Miracle in Cell No. 7" did. 

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

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