‘You’re Still the One’ Review: Almost a love story
MANILA, Philippines – With the barrage of glossy teenage romances screening in local theaters, Chris Martinez’s You’re Still the One seems like a breath of fresh air. (WATCH: Maja Salvador and Dennis Trillo in ‘You’re Still the One’ trailer)
The film, about a boy and a girl who sort of fell in love while studying, maps the evolution of a romantic affair within a period of 15 years, or from 1999 to 2014. Given its daunting scope, it attempts to present a type of love that is far from fleeting, with slivers of maturity, while still gunning for the same momentary thrills of the typical rom-com.
There lies the problem. Martinez’s film is simply unable to juggle the seriousness it aspires for and the levity I suppose the current market is hungry for. You’re Still the One is an unwieldy film, unable to maintain some sort of consistency in what kind of romance it wants to be. In the end, all its ambitions just fall flat.
The film starts with Jojo (Dennis Trillo) and Elise (Maja Salvador), both college students, competing in a school debate, where Jojo’s short but sweet retorts to Elise’s overly researched points wins him the contest. As expected, the former foes quickly become friends, and then lovers, but without the benefit of formalities or labels. They predictably drift apart.
You’re Still the One jumps from 1999, to several years after, where the two, presumably wiser and more accomplished in their respective fields, are living their respective lives. They meet again, and attempt to rekindle the flames. However, Jojo is now engaged, forcing Elise, a newly minted lawyer, to quell her emotions out of respect and decency. They again drift apart. A few years lapse, and the two would again meet.
The love story is aptly told in episodes, compressing the 15 years of the two main characters flirting in and out of a tenuous relationship within key moments. Martinez keeps everything sober and reverent, almost bereft of any humor except whenever side characters (Melai Cantiveros and Jason Francisco) offer quick punchlines.
You’re Still the One is an unusual entry to Martinez’s filmography, considering that most of his post-100 (2010) is limited to comedies. Even stranger is how the film seems to avoid real depth or layers. It is as if Martinez is content and confident that the on and off love affair of his film’s two main characters are enough to invest in.
Sadly, it is not enough. Jojo and Elise’s romance feels like a prolonged excursion. The hindrances to their being together, which in Jojo’s case is a suffering wife (Ellen Adarna) and in Elise’s case is a middle-aged prosecutor (Richard Yap), give way to the central romance without even a flurry. It is as if the film espouses love without any consequences, which is nothing more than an escapist notion if translated into real life.
Time, in the case of You’re Still the One, is nothing but a spectacle, a gimmick to hopefully complicate what essentially is an uncomplicated romance. It is the spice to the protracted affair, the test to see if fate is on their side.
Martinez and screenwriter Aloy Adlawan waste the opportunity of pitting love against the changes that the 15 years would have afforded them. Instead of putting a political or economic subtext to their imperfect relationship, the duo purposely kept the film anchored on characters whose personal evolutions are not all that interesting. Jojo and Elise seem to float in a world without context, growing old in a society where it is just love or the lack of it that is of primary importance.
Consider Peter Chan’s Comrades, Almost a Love Story (1996), about the criss-crossing paths of two Mainland Chinese who end up moving to Hong Kong and then to New York only to end up together. Chan’s film, at times feels like the inspiration of You’re Still the One, backdrops the romance against the tremulous economy of China, and its relationship with Hong Kong.
Pales in comparison
Martinez’s film unfortunately pales in comparison, offering little insight as to what is happening beyond the uninteresting game of romance his characters are playing. It plays out as just a typical romance, told with all the flourishes both Martinez and Adlawan can afford just so that its ending, which resembles a lousy wedding video, can make sense.
Sure, You’re Still the One makes complete sense as a love story that would make the best wedding package. It has all the elements to make the most gullible wedding guest swoon at the thought of lovers ending up together despite all the odds thrown against them. However, as a work of fiction, it is nothing much, just a rehash of what has already been told before, without anything to say new about love or the world that love exists in. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. He is also a movie critic for Rappler. 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.