Olivia Lamasan’s Barcelona: A Love Untold opens in dolor.
Ely (Daniel Padilla) wakes up on his birthday surrounded by his loving family and his girlfriend Celine, who is unseen because the entire scene is seen from her point of view, from the camera she is using to record the joyous moment.
The scene cuts to Ely, a few years later, alone and forlorn on a train to Barcelona. He’s been watching various videos from his happier past. Obviously, Celine’s gone. (WATCH: Full trailer of KathNiel movie, 'Barcelona,' released)
He then sees Mia (Kathryn Bernardo), dressed to the nines but looking distraught. She reminds him of his Celine, so he approaches her, and starts to call him by his former flame’s name. She is of course not Celine, so she reprimands him and scurries away to fix her pressing concerns. She’s about to get kicked out of her apartment.
Mechanical and artificial
Ely couldn’t move on from Celine. Mia, on the other hand, can’t seem to end her day without tears running down her face.
These back-and-forth portrayals of the two would-be lovers’ misfortunes drag on for another several scenes. After a string of chance encounters, they finally meet, and instead of the film adopting a little bit more levity in their blossoming romance, it remains torturously whiny, with the film overindulging in melodramatic arguments and squabbles.
Barcelona is loud and lousy, with characters who seem to be too preoccupied with personal pains that are ultimately betrayed by the film’s very shallow depictions. (7 fun facts about KathNiel movie 'Barcelona: A Love Untold')
It does not help that Lamasan recruits glamour and gloss for her film. Sure, Barcelona is a pretty film. It displays the Spanish city in all its picture-perfect glory, with a lot of the scenes set in famous landmarks. However, there’s a gaping disconnect between the sweet spectacle and the lugubrious storyline. The lovely surroundings are just being superficial eye candy to the predictable plot that could have been set anywhere else around the world.
Then there is the overflowing musical score of Cesar Francis Concio which unabashedly dictates the emotions the audience should feel with every dramatic scene and sequence. At its worst, the film feels like an overextended prenuptial video, with its series of staggered montages that display Padilla and Bernardo in various states of passion.
Screengrab from YouTube/Star Cinema
The biggest problem of the film is that it all feels too mechanical, too designed to work. It’s all brazenly artificial.
The attempt at exploring the Filipino diaspora is pitiful, with the stubborn romance always turning out to be a gross hindrance to any form of relevant discourse on the state of the overseas workforce in a land that is wallowing in its own economic ails. The film is full of surface-level sketches of sacrifices and hardships, but it never really dwells on the heart and soul of the issue.
Barcelona feels flat in comparison to Lamasan’s other love stories set in foreign lands. There's Sana Maulit Muli (1995), which has Aga Muhlach exchanging his managerial position in Manila to become an underpaid cook in a California restaurant just to follow his ex-girlfriend. There's even Milan (2004), which has Piolo Pascual witnessing the aches and dangers Filipinos have to live through just to get unwanted jobs. But in Barcelona, the characters seem far too concerned over trivial matters like love and the inability to move on from it.
There is also a glaring lack of emotional intensity here, and there seems to be no point to its being set in a foreign land. Barcelona’s most powerful moment is perhaps during that scene in the restaurant where Ely finally tells her erring mother (Maria Isabel Lopez) how much he abhors her for leaving him, and that moment does not even need to be shot in Barcelona to matter.
It is just too concerned about maturing Padilla and Bernardo’s love team that it neglects to provide any valuable insights at all. More importantly, the screenplay never really allows the tandem to showcase the joviality that seems to be part and parcel of its long-standing charm. They are just too relentlessly and needlessly dour here.
It’s all a mess, a story that is so confused at what it really wants to do with its two stars that it ends up botching every opportunity to be about something other than a laborious love story that isn’t anything special.
Moreover, the gloom that the film opens with is never replaced with real joy. Barcelona is too busy emphasizing empty suffering that all of its belated celebratory moments feel dull and ineffective. – Rappler.com