‘All You Need is Pagibig’ review: Love Overdose

Critic Oggs Cruz writes, '"All You Need is Pag-ibig" could have been a sickening saccharine trifle, except that it’s not'

KIMXI. The love team is one of the couples in the Metro Manila Film Festival entry, 'All You Need is Pag-ibig.' Screengrab from YouTube/ABS-CBN Star Cinema

MANILA, Philippines – If there is one proof that Filipinos are ridiculously in love with love, it is Antoinette Jadaone’s All You Need is Pag-ibig. The film, which imperfectly assembles vignettes of various love stories set in the city, is an unguarded admission of this country’s addiction to flings and flirtations.

Thankfully, the film is quite good.

A rundown of romances

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All You Need is Pag-ibig starts with a charmingly animated fable about a tired heart who goes to God to plead about being overworked because everybody in the world is engrossed with romance. God tells the heart to delegate, reminding him that there are many kinds of love.

A corporate boss (Ian Veneracion) is slowly falling in love with his doting secretary (Jodi Sta Maria), while an elderly woman (Nova Villa) is slowly falling out of love with her husband (Ronaldo Valdez). A tutor-cum-networking agent-cum-failure (Kim Chiu) is rekindling her romance with her high school beau (Xian Lim), while a school teacher (Pokwang) is still pining for an ex-boyfriend.

In the midst of everybody else’s love stories, Love (Kris Aquino), the popular host of a love advice TV show, is impatiently waiting to finally discover love.

As it turns out, the film takes God’s advice lightly. Romance is still the rabidly beating heart of the film. Thankfully, when Jadaone swerves outside the direction of romance, such as when she directs the film to tackle heartaches and familial affection, they are mostly meaningful diversions.

Everything is not equal

The actual connections between the characters are both tentative and convenient – one character turns out to be the employer of another, or several of the characters being in the same place at the same time. So it is essentially the job of editor Benjamin Tolentino to weave the stories together without enunciating the obvious intertwining of the tales, and giving attention to the finer merits of each of the stories.

What is most fascinating about All You Need is Pag-ibig, as opposed to other films that exploit multiple narratives for the sake of novelty, is that the flavors of each story are distinct and separate.

Sure, not everything is equal.

Chiu and Lim’s thread favors traditional formula, with the lovers starting off as a bickering pair before resolving each other’s problems and ending up together. Sta Maria and Veneracion’s thread is delightful because it relies heavily on appealing gestures and expressions, which the two performers have quite an abundance of. Villa and Valdez’s episode is quietly funny but ends up being subtly poignant. Pokwang’s chapter is touching.

 Screengrab from YouTube/ABS-CBN Star Cinema

Nevertheless, there are enough pleasures in the individual stories to carry the entire picture. Jadaone is careful not to dwell too long, giving each story ample glimpses for her audience yearning for more.

The problem with Love

If there is just one glaring problem the film has, it is how it formed the character of Love as an ineffectively humorous prima donna, which sort of betrays her introspective hunger for romantic companionship. Sure, her scandalous scenes are played for laughs and giggles but all at the expense of molding a character who grapples with the fact that her identity-forming career is grounded on making people believe that she has mastery over love.

 Screengrab from YouTube/ABS-CBN Star Cinema

It is quite an unfortunate misstep. Love’s story of hopelessness amidst everybody else’s joy is fashioned to be the film’s twist of irony. Yet by reducing the character to stereotypically represent every media personality who has had a hilariously infamous public outburst, she becomes nothing more than a joke who ends up having an adequately cutesy resolution.

 Screengrab from YouTube/ABS-CBN Star Cinema

Nevertheless, it’s all very enjoyable. Jadaone is that rare filmmaker who has the ability to keep saying the same thing over and over again without sounding like she’s repeating herself. All You Need is Pag-ibig could have been a sickening saccharine trifle, except that it’s not. It is a delightful distraction – one that fully embraces its shallow intentions without completely surrendering full creativity to shape such intentions in a manner that makes it all the more affecting. – Rappler.com

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass. Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios