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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.

Aug 15, 2018

The Day After Valentine’s Movie Review: A Movie With Tortured, Tormented Characters That Is The Perfect Antithesis To Feel Good RomComs

THERE ARE TWO kinds of love stories, the feel good happy romcoms and the sad ones that end in heartbreak. Now, it’s the season of star-crossed lovers and filmmakers for whom a bright ending should be avoided at all cost. We’re referring to films like “Kita Kita”, “Camp Sawi”, “12”, “Meet Me in St. Gallen”, “Mr. and Mrs. Cruz”, “100 Tula Para Kay Stella”, where the characters seem to wallow in heartache and turmoil amd make their experience emotionally draining for the poor viewer.

There are no happy couples in these movies about imperfect relationships and they’re obviously the perfect antithesis to manipulative romcoms. The fact that most of them did well at the box office is living proof that most millennial viewers today are suckers for tortured and painful relationships with flawed characters. Maybe viewers now really prefer sad, heart wrenching endings to happier ones.

Now comes “The Day After Valentine’s”, from the same writer-director, Jason Paul Laxamana, and stars, Bela Padilla and JC Santos, of “100 Tula”, who once again dilly dally and just cannot commit to each other. JC is Kai, a Filipino Hawaiian who’ve been staying in Manila for almost three years after he fell head over heels in love with a girl called Anne who has since dumped him. He can’t get over her and he cuts his arms to punish himself.

One night, while buying arm socks to cover his scarred arm, he meets Lani, the storekeeper-cashier in a boutique. Lani sees the cuts on his arm and one thing leads to another. They quickly become good friends. Lani knows baybayin (the old Tagalog script or alphabet) and she teaches Kai how to read and write it to add a cute element into the movie.

Lani also teaches Kai how to forget Anne by urging him to constantly remind himself about her qualities that turn him off. Slowly, he’s able to move on and he says Lani has repaired his brokenness. He invites her to join him to a trip to his native island called Lanai, off Maui, and a great part of the movie is filmed there on location, displaying the island’s most scenic spots while Lani and Kai continue to relate with each other positively.

 Slowly, it’s revealed that Lani has her own hangups, with scars, even uglier than those in Kai’s arms, adorning her entire back. Kai confesses being so attracted to her and on the night they’re supposed to return to Manila, they kiss passionately and almost make out, but Lani pulls back just as Kai is taking off her blouse, and the act is not consummated.

She returns to Manila and the movie suddenly becomes fast paced at this point, as if they know the running time is getting too long and they’re already consuming a lot of time for a relationship flick with only two characters. The situation is reversed and Lani become the problematic character and it’s Kai’s turn to help repair her.

The problem is that the transition is not really that convincing. We can’t understand it at all why they’re so afraid to commit to each other since it’s not really a mismatched pairing as they both have a self-destructive streak. For them both, tortured or damaged is an understatement. People like them should come with a warning label.

The emotional agony of their relationship actually appears more like it’s just manufactured or contrived to make the characters even more doomed than they already are. Lani seems to be afflicted with self-loathing as she hates not only her abusive dad but even her mom and brother. Kai should be a symbol of her escape from her past and her reward for her good deeds on him, but with Kai also riding on this relationship, everything must just come crashing down for a more anti-feel good effect.

In movies like this, the characters are plainly fucked up individuals not allowed to experience happiness for long, so it’s easy to expect that their relationships would only crash and burn. Maybe they already realized early on that a relationship between them wouldn’t really work out and they’re afraid to take the necessary risk. If you feel exhausted after watching their two-hour shenanigans, we won’t blame you.

What saves the movie is the superb performances of Bela and JC who succeed in inhabiting the tormented lead characters. They both succeed in making us realize that the prospect of ever being happy with each other can be very difficult. Any flirtation of further development of their love affair is hindered by their own inherent feelings of insecurity, just like the Stella character in “100 Tula”.