For sure, Miko Livelo’s I Love You to Death is cheeky fun, even if it quite uneven at the seams.
Take away all of its gratuitous trappings, and what’s left is the most traditional of romances, only exaggerated and mutated to the point of hilarity.
Essentially, the film is about Tonton (Enchong Dee) and Gwen (Kiray Celis), who during their childhood years, promised that they are to marry each other when they grow up. As with almost all love stories, the two are separated, only to be reunited, but not without a bevy of challenges to test their love.
It is those challenges that make I Love You to Death so wildly entertaining. In the eyes of her family and friends, Gwen is unattractive, seemingly unworthy of Tonton’s undying love. On the other hand, Tonton is literally undying, as he has been resurrected from the dead with the sole goal of fulfilling his promise to marry Gwen.
However, the love story is hardly the film’s selling point. The film’s greatest asset is its malleability, its ability to transform by sheer will and need to deliver a chuckle.
Livelo is quite a crafty comedian.
Blue Bustamante, his first film which tells the story of a recently fired overseas worker in Japan who is forced to take a bizarre job for a television studio, utilizes his personal nostalgia for costumed superheroes to create an ingenious scenario outrageous enough to sustain a simple family drama. Despite its plotting problems, the film prominently displays Livelo’s ability to utilize fondly remembered pop culture artifacts to enhance a very contemporary brand of humor.
' Screengrab from YouTube/Regal Entertainment
I Love You to Death has Livelo do the same thing, but within the limits of a familiar storyline that is palatable to a broader audience.
The film’s jokes cover an era of Philippine pop culture that has been conveniently replaced by heartbreak-related witticism. Livelo’s range is wider. He borrows from films starring Rene Requiestas and Zorayda Sanchez that exploit traditional notions of ugliness for gags, Shake, Rattle and Roll and the endless list of B-horror that thrive on cheap schlock and violence, and all the capricious chick flicks like Joel Lamangan’s Desperadas films that reduce female friendships to mean stereotypes all for the sake of laughs and a convenient lesson at the end.
The comedy adorns the film’s very basic romance, turning it into a bold hodgepodge of disparate influences. The arbitrariness of the comedy takes a lot to get used to, but as soon as the plot surrenders to the brash illogic of it all, everything becomes easier to enjoy.
Both odd and familiar
The result is a film that is deliciously irreverent, considering that I Love You to Death is bankrolled by Regal Films, which earned from churning out the very same films that Livelo is mining his ingenious punchlines from.
Sure, the film still suffers from pacing problems, especially with its very slow start, its plodding middle, and its short-lived but deliriously ecstatic climax. Yet it does what it sets out to do, which is ultimately to throw everything at once in a blender and come up with such a pleasant surprise that is at all at once desirably odd but still comfortingly familiar. – 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.