‘Para sa Broken Hearted’ review: Fresh take on ‘hugot’

If ever you seek validation that you’re not alone with the grief your dealing with, Digo Ricio’s ‘Para sa Broken Hearted’ is there to sob with you.

Para sa Broken Hearted (For The Broken Hearted) kicks off with a montage of random people coping with the anguish of heartbreak – in its background, After 5’s cover version of ‘Pers Lab’ is played for satirical purposes. It promises to be an ode for all the fallen soldiers of love, but with it comes an implicit caveat: this film may reopen old wounds.

The title might feel alienating for those who are inexperienced, but come to think of it, heartbreak comes in different forms right? The film/source material, however, misses the opportunity to explore that facet and restricts the scope to romantic love. Anyway, if you’re a masochist who finds gratification in this form of mild torture, or simply a casual viewer who has not yet reached the quota for ‘hugot’ films this year, feel free to embrace this and be comforted to know that it all ends with a silver lining.

Set in a bus station – a metaphorical place of limbo for all the broken hearts waiting to get fixed – two kindred souls, Jackie (Shy Carlos) and Kath (Louise delos Reyes) quickly befriend each other and share their stories of heartbreak. This film does not bog you down with a somber tone throughout. In fact, the first half of it is much lighter. Jackie’s story is the most accessible as it touches on the subject of puppy love. A woman who’s a firm believer of the philosophy “If you want something, go get it,” she does everything to win the affection of her crush RJ (Marco Gumabao). The feels are all too familiar because we’ve been there before – the butterflies that starts circling in your stomach once you receive a reply from your crush or the squashing pain that you have to endure upon seeing him/her with another potential lover. To hook you in, director Digo Ricio employs escapist elements like dance numbers as an extreme visualization of Jackie’s emotions.

On the other hand, I was left frowning most of the time on Kath’s story. Founded on an unrealistic meet cute, the heartbroken girl embarks on a road trip with another heartbroken boy Dan (Sam Concepcion) who she acquaints in one fateful night. More unrealistic plot points (and some plot holes that I can’t discuss) come into play – by then the script feels sloppy because it could’ve easily fixed these narrative stretches by making up plot devices. Also, without spoiling anything, Dan’s motivation seems inconsistent while Kath’s basis of grief in the present feels shallow.

Though pulled out of thin air, the most melodramatic of all is Dan’s ‘other’ story. This one operates in a timeline before she meets Kath. During his long hair phase, Dan is a peerless nobody who gets noticed by a popular girl named Shalee (Yassi Pressman). They develop feelings for each other and eventually change each’s life perspective for the better. However, unforeseen circumstances causes them to part ways, leading Dan to the spot where he first meets Kath.

What easily sets this film apart from the current landscape of romance genre is its retrospective style of narrative. Taken individually, the stories are redundant cookie-cutters of its genre but with Ricio’s dynamic direction, along with an aesthetically pleasing cinematography, these seemingly disparate anthologies tie into a neat, overarching structure. The world is filled with broken hearts and one way or another, Para sa Broken Hearted shows that they’re all related in the grand scheme of things.

But the film has its own share of faults too. It banks so much on familiarity that sometimes viewers will feel for the characters due to the universality of emotions in display and not necessarily because the film does a remarkable job in fleshing out the stories. It’s kind of a cheat code that the film uses to get away with its shortcomings. Another common problem for tricky ensemble pieces like this is the tendency to paint one-dimensional characters. Although he’s more of a supporting character, RJ has the thinnest characterization here.

The performances are good but the script’s preference to ‘hugot’ driven dialogues get in the way of the actors’ authenticity. The film could have opted for a more vernacular approach since it has already a great arsenal of songs to begin with – Janine Teñoso’s ‘Ang Awit Natin’ contributes much to the film’s catharsis. Having said that, it’s still a decent work considering that there are far worse things that this film successfully avoids.

Para sa Broken Hearted is more interested in evoking general emotions of elation, sadness, grief, etc. rather than telling remarkable and heartfelt stories. Ricio has plenty of personal touches here to make it look inspired but the style occasionally overpowers the substance. Nevertheless, it still delivers to its title’s promise. The film finds redemption in Marcelo Santos III’s quote dropped as a voice over realization by one of the characters, “Life is a game. Some will win. Some will lose. But in the end, everyone learns.” I guess that’s the biggest takeaway here, even if it’s not entirely earned.

3 out of 5 stars

Directed by Digo Ricio from a screenplay written by Rinka Sycip, ‘Para sa Broken Hearted‘ stars Yassi Pressman, Sam Concepcion, Marco Gumabao, Louise de los Reyes, Shy Carlos, Katya Santos, Andrea Del Rosario, Lander Vera-Perez, Christopher Roxas and DJ Durano. Based on a novel by Marcelo Santos III. Run time: 92 minutes

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