"She's beautiful, but she's not the type of beautiful you'd find on TV or movies."
Luke (Edward Barber) is of course referring to Shine (Maymay Entrata), the dark-skinned and wiry lass he falls in love with in Giselle Andres' Loving in Tandem. The touching words of the Filipino-American who finds himself miserably trapped in one of the many slums of his estranged mother's motherland, however, can also apply to what ABS-CBN thinks of Entrata, the breakout star of the latest iteration of Pinoy Big Brother, the reality show that has evolved to become a star-making vehicle.
Loving in Tandem has no aspirations for far-reaching novelty for its overused genre.
It pulls off all the genre's familiar tricks and tropes. It also doesn't avoid a lot of the rom-com's many pitfalls, starting with a clear chauvinist slant with Shine's questionably desperate efforts to please Luke, who is initially characterized as offputtingly privileged and heartless. It doesn't seem to mind the antiquated worldviews it espouses, relying heavily on comedy to render all the questionable scenes somewhat palatable.
Loving in Tandem could have been an obnoxious mess but thankfully, it's not.
Amid all the problems it doesn't avoid, it ends up surprisingly charming thanks mostly to Entrata who turns out quite an endearing actress. She could have easily gone the route traversed by Ai-Ai de las Alas, Pokwang and Eugene Domingo, actresses with non-mainstream beauty whose onscreen romances with their male leads always had them enunciate the glaring and supposedly humorous gap in looks. She, however, churns out a more dignified performance, one that is grounded not in discrepancy but on very relatable appeal.
Love and hardships
It certainly helps that Andres did not fully sanitize her film's setting to match the glossy and escapist aspirations of the genre.
The slums of Loving in Tandem, while not exactly comparable to the gritty realness of Brillante Mendoza's films, haven't been repurposed to evoke false pleasantries within the context of economic hardships. Crime exists. In fact, Luke and Shine were brought together by two instances of misdemeanors, the first one of which was committed by Shine herself out of extreme necessity, and the second one committed by random elements.
In fact, Loving in Tandem is that unique mainstream rom-com that doesn't seem to shy away from depicting poverty.
It isn't bleak and depressing, but it also isn't excessively and falsely idealist. Its very earnest effort to situate a spritely romance within dire situations that would have individuals cross certain legal and moral lines is laudable. There are times that the film becomes very touching, with its blending of love and other more pressing issues striking a curiously profound balance within a genre that was never meant to confront realities but escape them.
Outweighing its faults
Loving in Tandem is far from perfect. It has a lot of problems, most of them due to its fealty to the genre's formulas. However, what it does right outweigh its faults.
Moreover, Entrata is promising. If she's handled in a way that appreciates her ability to be endearing without necessarily conforming to very mainstream notions of what beauty is, she can do many more wonderful things. – 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.