Movie review: 'The Hows of Us' asks weighty whys

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 01 2018 12:51 PM | Updated as of Sep 02 2018 06:12 PM

Movie review: 'The Hows of Us' asks weighty whys 1

I had only seen two KathNiel films before, both from four years ago. These were "Pagpag" and "She's Dating the Gangster.” The latter film was their first feature film directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina, who also directed their hit 2013 telenovela "Got to Believe.” Because of her plan to retire from directing, "The Hows of Us" may be the last time Garcia-Molina worked together with the KathNiel love team. 

Georgina was a pre-med student when she first met Primo at a debate in college. Primo eventually proved his worth to George with his persistence and passion, and they became a couple. They agreed to live together in the house bequeathed to them by George's dear departed Tita Lola (Susan Africa). While Primo's dream to be a musician seemed to be going nowhere, so was Georgina's dream to become a doctor. So one stormy night, along with their escalating bills and disconnected electricity, the stifling pressurized situation at home simply exploded between the two of them. 

In the first half of this film, we witness a sweet romantic relationship steadily becoming toxic because of Primo's apparent irresponsibility, insensitivity and selfishness, which caused poor George to make one sacrifice after the other. This was a one-sided unfair relationship where the imbalanced contributions of the two parties eventually caused it to self-destruct, and a separation was clearly bound to happen. 

The second half of the film documented the efforts of Primo to win George back, which involved the rather absurd condition of putting an actual boundary line using tape across the center of their house and their furniture. Should George accept back a person whom she felt was insufferable and inconsiderate, someone who set her life back for several years? Her friends Mikko (Juan Miguel Severo) and Awee (Ria Atayde) advised her on the pros and cons, but George had to make the final decision.

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There was a side story about George's younger brother Yohan. His father Gregory had long left their mother Baby (Jean Garcia) to raise her two kids, so Yohan never saw him before. Impending blindness because of diabetic retinopathy heightened his desire to search for his father. This angle of the film would bring the story to picturesque Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Darren Espanto gave a promising debut performance as Yohan. Kit Thompson played cousin Darwin, their (and our) dutiful tour guide there. 

This film is Kathryn Bernardo's. Her George had all the big memorable acting moments -- the two times when she realized enough was enough and she needed to stand up for her own interests and take the reins back in her life. Kathryn gave these two difficult scenes her whole heart and soul, owning them with such a raw display of overwhelming emotions. Maturity certainly became Kathryn as an actress.

Daniel Padilla's character Primo was written as the plot device who brought dramatic changes to George's pre-planned life, causing her to make major decisions. The story was never about Primo, and all about George. Daniel wisely recognized this and generously allowed Kathryn to shine, while he underplayed. Even during those key confrontational moments, Primo kept relatively quiet, never putting up a counter-argument in his defense. 

As a reel (and real) love team, Daniel and Kathryn know how to play for their fans. Despite the dramatic story, there were still many scenes of them playing it cute all for the sake of romantic thrills. That whole segment about Primo and George trying to live together again with that line of tape between them was never meant to be realistic, only "kilig." You know it works because the movie house would erupt in giggles whenever the couple had silly sweet moments together, and in shrieks whenever they shared a passionate kiss on the lips. 

Instead of titular hows, there were more whys. Why did an ambitious woman like George allow a slacker like Primo to stall her own career path? Why did she allow him to dictate the terms of his return after two years of abandonment? Why did she accede to live with him again in the same house, symbolic demarcation notwithstanding? Why did she offer him an apology after what she felt he did to her? 

Apparently, the idealistic answer to all of these whys (at least according to director Cathy Garcia-Molina and scriptwriter Carmi G. Raymundo), aside from Primo's irresistible charm, is love. Selfless love was the only how of them. 

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