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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 15, 2018

Never Not Love You Movie Review: Not What You Usually Expect From Local Romantic Films With Melodramatic Twists And Crowd Pleasing Pakwela Scenes

THE BEST way to describe the latest movie of the JaDine love team is that it’s very simple. It is not embroidered with melodramatic twists and complicated turns of plots, no really schmaltzy confrontation scenes with lots of shouting and screaming, no forced pakwela or deliberate pa-cute, pakilig scenes that pander to the viewers to give them what they want and have learned to expect from the usual romantic films they watch. If this is what you are looking for, you most certainly would be disappointed.

What “Never Not Love You” (the title is uttered by both the lead characters in separate scenes) offers is just the unadorned love story between the characters played by James Reid and Nadine Lustre, Gio and Joanne. Gio is a Fil-American who, at 25, is really a devil-may-care drifter who still depends on his father financially. He says he just wants to be happy and shuns responsibility. He smokes a lot and is heavily tattooed. Instead of having a regular job, he prefers to be a free lance tattoo and graphic artist.

But then, he meets Joanne, a hard working young woman who is with a marketing company and has planned what she wants to do in life, dreaming of being promoted as a brand manager. Joanne is from Zambales and is the breadwinner for her parents and two siblings. At first, she tries to resist Gio’s overtures, but he keeps on showing up to take her to and from work on his motorcycle and soon, they become a couple who live together in Gio’s condo unit.

Of course, at first, it’s all sunshiny but this is not a fairy tale but a film about the struggles lovers experience in a relationship, so a problem crops up when Gio gets an offer to work in London. Joanne eventually gives up her own career and personal aspirations to join him abroad, but then quickly gets disillusioned when all the work she could get is to be a waitress insulted by her white customers.

She chooses to return to Manila to resume her career. Is there still hope for their long distance love affair? Of course, this is a rhetorical question and you can easily guess what the answer is. After all, both Gio and Joanne are very reasonable, well intentioned persons who both try to exert an effort to know and fix what their problem is.

We see them at their swooning highs at the start of their relationship and their heart-wrenching lows, especially their parting scene at the airport in London. But yes, you know there’s hope, despite some petty jealousies, as you can feel that they’re both determined to make things work, despite all odds.

The material is not really new, as the story between lovers whose relationship falls apart and suffers when one party feels that she’s sacrificing so much to make their love affair work has just been seen in recent local films like “12” and “All of You”. The seemingly raw, unscripted sequences and acting reminds you of scenes from “Blue Valentine” with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

Their long distance dilemma also reminds us of “Like Crazy” with Felicity Jones and the late Anton Yelchin. You can feel that both Gio and Joanne are both committed into their relationship so their eventual reunion feel authentic and justifiably earned. The ending is a bit rushed and it seems to have been padded by showing flashback scenes of the lovers when they’re still starting their love affair. What the film succeeds in showing is that the real test of a healthy relationship between partners is if it helps each other grow to be better, more productive individuals.

After all the unsavory reports about them in gossip columns, including their own writer-director Antoinette Jadaone’s denouncing them in social media for needlessly delaying the project, this movie acquits both James and Nadine with their natural but very credible, realistic performances as Gio and Joanne.

This is not the first time that JaDine work with Jadaone as she was the one who gave them their hit TV soap, “On the Wings of Love”, which was also partly set abroad, but in the U.S. and not U.K. And they should thank Jadaone for successfully giving a big boost to their sagging careers when prophets of doom declared them to be “laos”. With her movie, Jadaone succeed in giving them their transition from teeny bopper love team who level up to being more mature, nuanced actors. They do have a lot of kissing scenes but they don’t have a really daring love scene, but still, they manage to give their most persuasive performances in their career.