‘Just the 3 of Us’ Review: Love, laughs, and much more
At least on paper, Just the 3 of Us, Star Cinema’s latest permutation on its beloved rom-com genre, has all the makings of an obnoxious, abrasive and totally illogical romance, one whose leads’ questionable psychology is completely incongruent to its mainly escapist motivations.
Its male protagonist is a sadistic and relentless chauvinist. His counterpart, on the other hand, is unbelievably sweet-natured, subservient, sometimes masochistic and more than a little bit too willing to be verbally and emotionally abused by her misanthrope of a partner. It’s a pairing that is defined by extreme hyperboles that can no longer be categorized as cute and trivial quirks. Simply put, the film forces its audience to root for grave neurotics, a boy and a girl who have been enjoined by a cruel trick of fate that teaches them to be better versions of themselves all in the name of, you guessed it, love.
Somehow, someway, and amidst everything that could easily go wrong with a narrative that is grounded on a cruel man and his whimsical servant, it all works. This is largely due to the seasoned intuition of director Cathy Garcia-Molina and their film’s undeniably charismatic and proficient leads. (READ: Director Cathy Garcia-Molina on 'recovering' after 'Forevermore' controversy)
Think of Just the 3 of Us as a rom-com that tentatively embraces its maturity.
Uno Abusado (John Lloyd Cruz) meets CJ Manalo (Jennylyn Mercado) in a party. They don’t know each other then, but despite that, they have hurried and drunken sex. They only officially meet a few weeks after outside a convenience store, where CJ, now pregnant, tells Uno that he is the father of the baby she is carrying. Following the traditional flow of the genre, the two destined lovers start off awkwardly before developing an avenue for romance.
Two things differentiate Just the 3 of Us from its kin.
First is the conceit of using CJ’s pregnancy as the device that brings the two leads together. This also secures the film its mature and somewhat progressive aspirations, especially since the initial come-on of an unwed couple having a baby already involves contemporary norms usually frowned upon by the religious and societal forces still predominant in local media. Garcia-Molina cleverly skirts any issues of morality, treating the scenario as matter-of-factly as possible.
Of pilots and patriarchies
This is quite refreshing. By filtering society’s views on a dilemma that is first and foremost personal to the individuals involved, the film manages to enunciate the flurry of very personal emotions that are apparent during the crisis. In a way, the film already rationalizes what's problematic leads by establishing the fact that personal issues trump societal expectations when it comes to conflicts like this.
Uno has to address first his traumas before he can fulfill his roles as a father and a partner. CJ has to come to terms with the fact that she can never satisfy her family’s expectations of her before she can see herself as Uno's equal, and not just some unfortunate accident. There is a plausible logic within the film’s limited universe that makes all its excesses and deficiencies palatable, if not ultimately satisfying.
Second is the film’s well-researched milieu. Just the 3 of Us is set in a subculture where patriarchal rules are unfortunately apparent. In its world of debonair pilots and fawning flight attendants, it is not an unrealistic exaggeration to have gents like Uno who see everything revolving around them, and ladies like CJ who are submissive to the point of ridicule. There is actually a semblance of reason to all the film’s madness.
Enjoyable as the rest
In a way, Garcia-Molina has crafted a romance that frankly paints a veiled portrait of a grossly male-dominated culture. The narrative of Just the 3 of Us is so consumed by the selfish demands of its male protagonist and the extreme sacrifices and humiliation its female protagonist has to endure that it almost feels like a satire dressed in the glossy garb of a mainstream romance.
Of course, in the end, it still feels as giddy and enjoyable as the rest.
Cruz and Mercado seamlessly turn their characters’ errors and dysfunctions into anchors for affection, resulting in a film that has a slew of inherent problems but still manages to feel pleasantly wholesome. At least however there are traces of the filmmakers touching on the overt gender politics of the not-so-fictional situation they utilized to give their love story its taste of gravity, even if it all ends up suspicious in all its fairy tale glory. – 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.