‘The Art of Ligaw’ review: Surprisingly delightful

The premise of Jourdan Sebastian’s The Art of Ligaw isn’t new. 

Stories of players meeting their match are dime a dozen. There is a certain delight in the spectacle of debonair men getting their comeuppance from the unlikeliest of women, and many romances that peddle fantasies of love as a cure-all have exploited that formula for good reason.

Local color

What separates The Art of Ligaw from its ilk is the local color it blends into the formula.

Jake Esguerra (Epy Quizon) is a Manila-based fund manager who is a self-professed player and oblivious to the mechanics of courtship because he doesn’t see the necessity of spending time and effort towards women he wouldn’t form long-lasting relationships with. He sleeps with gorgeous women left and right, but when he is invited to Davao City to talk to a marketing company about his experiences as a renowned playboy, he predictably meets the girl that would push him from a life of one-night stands and erstwhile affairs towards commitment. That girl is Carisse (KZ Tandingan), a frank and straightforward simple girl who has never had a boyfriend in her life.

Sebastian amps up the artifice of the two unlikely lovers’ deliberately paced attraction. 

Framed in what feels like Jake’s confessional of his wayward ways with women, the narrative follows him as he attempts to rationalize his sudden urge to take the affairs of his heart more seriously over a woman who is starkly different in terms of both personality and looks to the upper crust socialites and models he has gone to bed with. The film cheats. There is indeed a lot of chatter that does away with showing and visualizing how the two eventually shift their apprehensions towards true adoration. However, there is effective humor in the film’s many banter that renders the shortcuts palatable.

 

MEETING HIS MATCH. Jake Esguerra (Epy) finds himself being challenged by Clarisse.

MEETING HIS MATCH. Jake Esguerra (Epy) finds himself being challenged by Clarisse.

Provincial moods

Quizon is a charmer here.

His role’s essentially a stereotype but he interprets it without falling into the trap of resorting to easy comedy. Instead, he layers the role with palpable sadness, giving his character a certain exhaustion over the hedonistic lifestyle that has given him that veneer of happiness. If Sebastian’s screenplay lacks the necessary scenes to convince the audience that Jake is really ready to take the plunge towards commitment, it is Quizon’s subdued performance that fills the gaps.

Tandingan’s inexperience as an actress is quite apparent here. 

However, instead of the rawness of her performance becoming a liability here, it becomes one of the film’s finest elements. It grounds the narrative, making it integral to the setting since her taciturn attitude, her very traditional perspectives towards relationships, her aspirations to become a singer, and the familial bonds that eventually become her crutch during times of strife are seemingly representative of the provincial moods that are suddenly punctured by Jake’s contemporary appreciation of love.

The Art of Ligaw makes most of the patent simplicity of the locale that becomes the stage for the interaction and the ongoing friction between two mindsets. 

Satisfying romance

The Art of Ligaw is a satisfying romance. 

It doesn’t fall into the trap of clinging onto unrealistic happy endings but instead relishes the journey towards bittersweet conclusions. – 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.