‘Hello, Love, Goodbye’ review: Love in a huff

Cathy Garcia-Molina’s Hello, Love, Goodbye, like most other romances churned out by Star Cinema, opens with a voiceover. 

Joy (Kathryn Bernardo) is standing in the middle of the airport, gazing at the board showing flight statuses, waiting as it finally shows that the flight going to Manila is cancelled. Her voiceover talks of transience and how Hong Kong, the city where she works, is a place that is not meant for long-term dedication as it is just a stop-over.

What happens after is more fascinating.

In what could be the film’s first bid to imbibe not just its setting’s vibe but also its main character’s sentiments, Garcia-Molina orchestrates a robustly edited montage of Joy’s life in Hong Kong over her narration of all her frustrations. The collection of images of Joy’s routine over a frazzled chase through the metropolis’ dingy alleyways is capped by a moment where she meets Ethan (Alden Richards).

Two ways

There are two ways to view Hello, Love, Goodbye.

One is as a fictionalized depiction of the lives of a Hong Kong-domestic helper as seen through the experiences of Joy. In fact, the film takes its time to depict this world, stripping the city of its typical glamour and luxuries by exposing its streets and walkways littered with cardboard mattings populated by tired Filipinas finally living the life. There is a genuine effort by Garcia-Molina not to adorn the hardships with gloss and gratuities as she exhausts (within the constraints of the genre) all the details that mark the inequity domestic helpers experience just to earn a living. 

Here we find the film’s strengths and its most enduring moments. Clearly, Garcia-Molina has a heart for the plight of the domestic helpers, peppering her film with scenes and exchanges that, in true melodramatic fashion, relay the entire gamut of sacrifices that these women have to endure.

Joy, after witnessing her mother (Maricel Laxa) glossing over her Chinese husband’s physical abuses, meets a former flame in a tram. He tells her he’s on vacation with his new wife and is going back to the Philippines after spending years as a nurse abroad. Joy, who is also a nurse, stomachs the embarrassment of telling him that she has ended up a domestic helper, just like her mother. In one quick moment, we see Sally (Kakai Bautista), the always jovial friend of Joy, in tears as she laments being forced to go home by her family. 

OFW LIFE. Joy and her friends go through lives as Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

OFW LIFE. Joy and her friends go through lives as Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

Rory B. Quinto’s Anak (2000) has become the staple melodrama for Hong Kong domestic helpers shouldering the burdens of being both the breadwinner and the absentee family member. Babyruth Villarama’s Sunday Beauty Queen (2016) has revealed with painful realism the efforts of these domestic helpers to retain their humanity and happiness amidst the pressures of their work.

Hello, Love, Goodbye is nothing new. But its puts effort in again bringing to the fore the complex social structures and personal sufferings that define the domestic helper experience. 

PERSISTENCE.  Ethan tries to get closer to Joy despite her avoiding him.

PERSISTENCE. Ethan tries to get closer to Joy despite her avoiding him.

Also a romance

Then there is Hello, Love, Goodbye as a romance between Joy and Ethan, a bartender with predictable family issues.

This is where the film eventually kowtows to formula, where the characters suddenly teeter towards stereotypes, and where the scenes and the dialogue lose some novelty and heft all for the sake of familiarity and escape.

But this isn’t to say that the love story is lousy. It is just woefully eclipsed by the weight and gravity of everything else that Hello, Love, Goodbye attempts to portray. 

The fault here isn’t the existence of the romantic facet. After all, it is is necessary to raise the current matter of Joy’s blossoming as a woman who can decide for herself without taking into account the issues of her family or her lover. It is just that the love story could have taken a more drastic step out of the box and it didn’t. It decided to be convenient.

TIME TOGETHER. With Ethan, Joy slowly opens up to the possibility of happiness in Hong Kong.

TIME TOGETHER. With Ethan, Joy slowly opens up to the possibility of happiness in Hong Kong.

Handsomely made, consistently acted

Nevertheless, Hello, Love, Goodbye is still fine entertainment, one that doesn’t dumb down the issues it puts forward for the sake of a standard happy ending. 

It is handsomely made and consistently acted. Bernardo inhabits the overworked domestic helper who is pushed to being angry at the world quite seamlessly. Richards, on the other hand, manages to transform his happy-go-lucky ladies’ man into a believable hopeless romantic.

There is ample chemistry. However, it's clear that Bernardo is better at playing the oppressed woman pushing for independence rather than a lover to just another leading man. She is more effective when in a huff, than in love. — 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.