PPP review: 'The Day after Valentine's' is a slow-burning stunner

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 17 2018 07:34 PM

Lani Murphy (Bela Padilla) was a sales clerk of Tess' (Regine Tolentino) clothing store. One night, Kai Ramos (JC Santos) walked in to buy arm socks. 

Lani caught Kai wounding himself in the arm and befriended him. She later discovered that he was having difficulty moving on from a recent failed relationship with a girl named Anne. Lani went out of her way to help him recover. 

When Kai needed to go back to his home in Hawaii, he invited Lani to come along, and she agreed. Is this the beginning of their forever?

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Bela Padilla and JC Santos already proved their box-office appeal as a pair last year in the film "100 Tula Para Kay Stella" with the same director, Jason Paul Laxamana. The three of them reunite for another project this year that brought them from Arayat, Pampanga before all the way to the beautiful island of Lanai in the US state of Hawaii this time. It is not surprising that this film is leading all others in the second Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino this year, just like "100 Tula" did in the 1st PPP last year. 

In "100 Tula," we saw JC's character already in love with Bela's character from the very first scene when they met as college freshmen. This time, the first instance when JC's character seemed to be falling for Bela's character only happened within the second hour of the film. It happened only on their last day together in Lanai when JC first put his arms around Bela's waist, causing the girls in the movie theater to finally scream in delight. 

Yes, "Valentine's" was a very slow burn. This could prove to be frustrating for those expecting instant romantic thrill between the two stars.

In the first hour, the flavor was provided by Lani's interest in "baybayin" or the pre-historic writing of ancestral Filipino natives. She would teach Kai how to read and write it. This was all very interesting. However, it could prove to be difficult for audiences who do not know how to read those characters. Not all the baybayin Lani or Kai wrote were interpreted in the subtitles, only those already spoken out loud by the characters. 

In the second hour, we were brought on a virtual tour of Lanai island. Via the character of Kai's older brother Keanu (Hawaiian actor and emcee Rayton Lamay), we get a brief overview of Hawaiian culture and legends. We saw them tour Sweetheart Rock, Shipwreck Beach, the unique red boulders of Keahiakawelo, and other sights in Lanai, which seemed very cold and windy when they did their shoot there.

Bela Padilla is really a very likable actress in any role she does, no matter how quirky. Lani was a woman who lived alone. Aside from her work in the clothing store, she also accepted doing homework for lazy students to earn extra cash. The way Bela played her, I did not doubt that Lani could fix Kai. That scene when Lani bared her soul to Kai in the car was heartbreaking. 

The script never really talked about Lani's past until the final 30 minutes of the film. She had a brief scene with her Tita Vickie (Hermie Go) whose son was recovering from a fall in the sewer, which was basically for comedy purposes, only a reference to the popular meme. Otherwise, her history was a big mystery until that scene when she met her brother George (Jordan Castillo) on the street. That scene was also the turning point for Lani to reveal the broken part of her persona, and Bela's prowess in drama.

Since Kai was a man with Hawaiian blood, they made JC Santos wear a mane of very thick long hair and a mustache. This beach hippie look did not always become JC, at times making him look too mature for Bela, especially in certain scenes shot in the very bright Hawaiian sunlight. JC's Kai was the perfect gentleman to Lani, but he was also too obtuse or too distracted not to get the (not so) subtle hints she was dropping for him.

Despite psychological insecurities and masochistic tendencies of Kai, we still wanted them to end up together. The chemistry between the two actors is strong, even if they were not "officially" in love for majority of the film. They can certainly bring on the "feels" as they exchange pithy lines of romance that their millennial fans will surely find quotable for their own love affairs.

In local romance films, anything can happen to the couple, and we need to be ready for anything. The title of this film is "The Day After Valentine's," but this film actually was set on the night before Valentine's Day. We do not even get to see what happens the day after Valentine's. 

With all the angst and scars Kai and Lani needed to fix in each other, I think the subtitle "Not a Love Story" was actually better fit for this film than for "Sid & Aya". 7/10

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