'Almost a Love Story' Review: Hardly a romance

Louie Ignacio’s Almost a Love Story has all the elements for a love story whose charm would at least last a few hours after the movie has ended.

Barely-there affect

It has the scenic locations, the star-crossed lovers, the references to art, the syrupy music, the tears, the levity, and possible long-lasting love between its charismatic leads.

Despite all that, the film hardly registers any emotional reaction. It’s a blank wall. It’s hardly a romance, a story whose barely-there affect poofs the minute the end credits start to roll.

The movie opens with Baneng (Barbie Forteza) on a videocall with her mother (Lotlot de Leon). Baneng, an arts student, is in the Philippines while her mom, a maid for a wealthy Filipino-Italian family, is in a coastal town in Italy. They sweetly banter, teasing each other about their odd sleeping habits resulting from their shared addiction to telenovelas.

Almost a Love Story pursues this storytelling style, which could have been gutsy had Ignacio pushed the envelope. Sadly, he didn’t. The film haphazardly switches from gloss to gadget-bound aesthetics with barely any rhyme or reason.

It is predominantly a series of video conversations between characters. Some are rich in everyday banter, trying to find some everyday familiarity out of mundane conversations between loved ones separated by necessity.

Most, however, are just tedious and repetitive. The film is replete with scenes whose only purpose is to prolong a plot that is as thin as a strand of angel hair pasta.

Love inside their minds

Iggy (Derrick Monasterio), Baneng’s love interest who is her mom’s ward, only enters the picture during one video conversation where the boy, who is also an artist, answers the call instead of Baneng’s mom.

Based on the comfortable way they converse, it certainly appears that Iggy and Baneng has some sort of undefined relationship with each other.

From there, Ignacio shifts his focus from the video conversations between mother and daughter to mother’s ward and daughter, attempting to establish a semblance of connection between the two youngsters despite the absence of any physical connection.

If anything, he only succeeds in communicating the fact that amidst their online rapport, they can only think about loving each other without committing to the real thing.

It really is a flat story.

Its dilemmas and conflicts are imagined. Heck, even the love exists mostly inside their minds. There isn’t enough in the film to make one root for the long distance lovers. Their frequent conversations are banal. Their chemistry, which the film’s existence hinges on, is doomed from the start.

The title’s a spoiler

The film’s title is a spoiler.

Almost a Love Story is oblivious to the pleasures of surprise, to the wonder of real storytelling. It is all mishandled style, with but a sliver of any substance. – 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.