What a lovely movie.
As soon as the end credits start rolling, right after the unsurprisingly pleasant ending that is to be expected out of a Star Cinema-bankrolled romance, I was left with only one thought. That was one lovely movie. That was one unexpectedly lovely movie.
However, Dan Villegas’ How To Be Yours isn’t at all unique.
Its portrayal of a romantic relationship from its early endearing stages up to its waning points has been done before, and under the watchful guidance of the head honchos of Star Cinema. Jose Javier Reyes’ Till My Heartaches End (2010), which also stars Gerald Anderson but paired with erstwhile partner Kim Chiu, also tackled a relationship doomed by mismatched priorities. Cathy Garcia-Molina’s A Second Chance (2015), the sequel to One More Chance (2007) which has Bea Alonzo play the wife of John Lloyd Cruz’s ambitious breadwinner, shatters happily-ever-after fantasies peddled by most glossy romances.
What sets Villegas’ film apart is the rare and precious restraint with which all the familiar tropes and indulgences play out.
It isn’t too eager to sell the romance, to embellish itself with marketing a fantasy about how invaluable love is. How To Be Yours is a lot more somber. It shows in the way cinematographer Mycko David’s tames the colors of the film, the way he makes sure that each frame does not feel like they belong within the pages of a teenage magazine. It rings in Emerzon Texon’s sparingly used score, which rightfully blends in only at the right conversations or the apt magical moments.
The film opens with salesman Niño (Anderson) falling instantly in love with Anj (Alonzo), whom he first sees from afar. Through common friends, they meet up, and in that same night they meet, they begin what would be a relationship that would have been perfect except that their priorities are not aligned.
The script, written by Patrick Valencia and Hyro Aguinaldo, doesn’t really stray too far from formula. There are no surprises, no convoluted twists, and no convenient resolutions. The story simply flows with unmanipulated ease, carried over by smartly written dialogue that paints Niño and Anj’s relationship as one that is within reach, seemingly ideal but has all the opportunities to break and end in heartache.
Villegas is a meticulous craftsman and artist with an invaluable sense for not just the broadest of feelings but also the subtle ones. He is that uncommon director who is able to inject a certain perspective even in the most generic of material. The Breakup Playlist (2015) and Always Be My Maybe (2016) are all carved from similar storylines. But amidst the many romances that Star Cinema has churned out in recent years, those two films believably showcase experiences with love, even though they are presented with all the indulgences of their genre.
In How To Be Yours, Villegas is able to conjure both joy and pain out of the most mundane of interactions.
It certainly helps that Anderson and Alonzo gift their characters with personalities that render them susceptible to be loved and loathed.
It also helps that their tandem is without any of the limiting expectations of celebrated love teams, giving them the freedom to experiment portraying their onscreen relationship with realism that is allowed within the boundaries of what is commercial. They joke. They fight. They sometimes curse when they do. They fall in and out of love how much of the rest of the world would, except that in their case, they do it with a lot more flair, flourish and drama.
Tension and grace
How To Be Yours is conventional entertainment done right. It enthralls without a lot of the pandering to the cheap thrills that commonly pervade romances. It does this without the misdirected ambitions of being anything other than a love story that is grounded not on fairy tales, but on real experiences that have been fictionalized to suit the requirements of formula.
More importantly, it is directed intelligently, with each element serving a purpose that is much more than the simple act of telling the same story over again.
One only needs to experience the enchanting flow of Niño and Anj’s reunion in the end to get a sense that Villegas isn’t simply stitching together scenes to arrive at a celebratory but cheap finish. There is tension, then grace, culminating in a climax that is amusingly sweet but truly earned. Villegas smartly withholds emotions, only to deliver a much more fulfilling reward. Surely, How To Be Yours reallyis the cute, lovely and sometimes moving romance it sets out to be. – 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.