‘Love is Love’ review: A very pleasant surprise
An evidently inelegant picture, GB Sampedro’s Love is Love opens as a rom-com too preoccupied with comedy that ranges from corny to crass before mutating into something quite splendid.
Not a seamless affair
The film’s transition isn’t the most seamless affair.
In fact, Love is Love feels ill-suited for the questions it endeavors to ask. The film often teeters towards being tasteless, steering its already disputable conceit of a transwoman tricking her childhood friend to loving her by shrouding her identity into territories that are arguably more exploitative than understanding. It seems like the film is unable to abandon the comedy of errors that is but a natural adjunct of the premise, pushing for gags that go for cheap and easy laughs, exposing what is essentially an immature appreciation of the nuances of the transgender experience.
It surely doesn’t help that the film went the easy route in terms of casting.
The effectivity of films like Love is Love is intertwined with creative decisions that touch on issues of representation which purports to be the film’s core. Thus, it is imperative that thought and care are blended with commercial considerations. Yet it seems that Love is Love thinks it is better to populate itself not with actors who have lived the experiences of its characters, imbibing the roles with the heft of authenticity but with those who have considerable popularity. In the end, the film loses an opportunity to supplement its laudable message with the risk to forgo big names for inclusivity.
Winona, the transwoman who attempts to woo Anton (JC de Vera), her best friend who is oblivious of her transition to becoming a woman, is played by Roxanne Barcelo. While Barcelo is fine here, more particularly when she shifts from being the stereotypical and desperate-for-love bombshell to a contrite character stuck in an emotionally complicated bind, there are aspects of performance that feel forced because they are drawn out of impression rather than experience.
Odd mix of many things
It certainly feels like Love is Love is bound to fail.
But it doesn’t. In fact, it miraculously matures, jumping from the gross juvenilia of Anton grabbing Winona’s breasts for giggles to crucial discourse on love across gender landscapes. The film definitely has a lot to say, using the various personalities behind Winona’s campaign to win Anton’s heart as spokespeople for the intricacies of loving unconventionally. It is when the film steps outside its problematic conceit that it reveals its more noble concerns. When the premise that feels like a politically incorrect punchline blossoms into something that exudes a fine understanding of the complexities of humanity in the most positive way, it is just beautiful.
The film’s an odd mix of many things.
It doesn’t work as a romance. It is awkward as a comedy. Some of the directions its already labyrinthine narrative takes are suspect. However, it is also profound and resounding when it needs to be. Most of the performances turn out to be riveting. Like Barcelo, De Vera’s gradual shift from the hackneyed leading man in what first felt like a run-of-the-mill rom-com to a man with more compelling complications than the need for love is a pleasant surprise. It is, however, Raymond Bagatsing’s delightfully mannered performance that sets the film’s curious mood that shifts unsteadily from cliché to currency.
Outweighs the problems
In the end, the earnestness of Love is Love outweighs its obvious problems.
The film absolutely earns its statements. Amidst clueless transgressions, it arrives at an amiable ending that celebrates love rather than snatches it with narrative manipulations. – 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.