‘My Letters to Happy’ review: Exquisitely handles a touchy subject

‘My Letters to Happy’ tells a relevant and heartwarming story of lovers trying to overcome their personal flaws outside the relationship.

If you think that My Letters to Happy is just another local love story, brace yourself because it’s not. The romcom theme in it is actually just a facade to a much deeper subject matter. The film mostly veers towards self-discovery in the face of depression and other mental health issues. It poses a question that some people might have asked at their lowest points, “When all is lost and everything just seems hopeless, how do you find the strength to carry on?” It’s a sensitive topic that some directors would not dare mix with romcom elements, as a poor and an offensive execution will surely be met with a heavy backlash. Thankfully, director Pertee Briñas knows how to handle the touchy subject with exquisite sympathy.

My Letters to Happy centers around Albert (TJ Trinidad), a brilliant and passionate man who suddenly loses his drive for work after a series of unfortunate events. His luck changes when he meets Happy (Glaiza De Castro), a random girl that he has been chatting online. Little did he know, meeting her will unexpectedly change his life forever.

The film wonderfully depicts how mental illness affects a person and the people around him/her. The illness is shockingly revealed in the middle part of the film and it throws almost every audience on the edge of their seats after realizing that Happy’s sudden bursts of happiness are all momentary. This part of the story truly changes the phase for the whole film. It’s a bit heavy in emotions yet it’s positively infused with hope to make us realize that love, after all, consists of equal parts of joy and pain.

Glaiza and TJ’s chemistry is relatable, sweet and delightful. Glaiza’s portrayal of her character is really amazing as she’s on the top of her game.  She’s convincing in every spectrum – you can feel her struggles emotionally and physically. TJ on the other hand, fits the role well enough to make us believe that he is a ruthless corporate boss who gradually becomes vulnerable and open to changes in his lifestyle dynamic, including the possibility of loving someone.

Director Pertee Briñas does a remarkable job in telling a powerful story with such awareness towards the sensitive topics of mental health. Despite its cinematography lapses (the distracting camera angles moves a lot), the film does not stop at shallow entertainment brought by a roller coaster ride of emotions. It gives a heartwarming lesson all while juggling an engaging love story.

In effect, My Letters to Happy serves as an uplifting letter to anyone who feels lost and aimlessly wandering for their mark in the world. It also reminds each of us that all struggles eventually come to an end. The film is indeed an honest reflection of our lives. It is daring, unique, and deserving to be seen.

4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Pertee Briñas, ‘My Letters to Happy’ stars Glaiza De Castro, TJ Trinidad, and Alyssa Valdez. 100 minutes. PG-13.

YEAR IN REVIEW: 20 best Filipino films of 2015

As of writing, I have logged on my Facebook account 804 movies I have seen in 2015. Having watched 87 local films released this year, here is my list of 20 best Filipino films of 2015.

20. Kid Kulafu

From the mountains of Mindanao to the unforgiving world of boxing, witness the rise of a young boy turned warrior. This is the real story of a boy named Emmanuel, who has risen as one of the world’s greatest boxers — Manny Pacquiao.

Its well-delivered narrative makes it impossible to miss its overall theme that goes together with powerfully choreographed fight sequences.

Stars: Buboy Villar, Cesar Montano, Alessandra de Rossi
Director: Paul Soriano
Release date: April 15


A documentary drama exploring the life and works of National Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquin.

Cradled by a captivating celebration of Nick Joaquin’s life and works with Bagatsing’s laudable portrayal, Dahling Nick works beyond its length and diversion as it cuts deep to literary senses.

Stars: Raymond Bagatsing, Alessandra De Rossi
Director: Sari Dalena
Release date: November 9

18. Tandem

In the traffic-laden streets of Metro Manila, two brothers use the chaos of the city roads as a smokescreen for their shady occupation: tandem robbers on motorbike. But when a robbery goes sour, the brothers are forced to graduate from low-level thieves to high profile hit men in an act that tests both their resolve and their relationship.

Makes a perfect pair with JM de Guzman and Nico Antonio’s unparalleled performances that snake into the grim, dark corners of reality.

Stars: JM de Guzman, Nico Antonio, Rochelle Panganiban, Elora Españo, Allan Paule, Paolo O’ Hara, Joel Saracho
Director: King Palisoc
Release date: December 17

17. Baka Siguro Yata

A comedy drama that tells a story of love within three generations. It tells how each generation understand and perceive the idea of love.

Engaging and funny as it explores relationships in an honest, groovy fashion. Dino Pastrana is such a blasting surprise!

Stars: Dino Pastrano, Bangs Garcia, Cherie Gil, Ricky Davao
Director: Joel Ferrer
Release date: November 9

16. Hamog

A child’s play at the end of innocence, heading towards a journey at the beginning of life.

There is just too much in it to consume the first time around with its strong, unfeigned characters with telling stories that’d be interesting to explore further.

Stars: Zaijan Jaranilla, Teri Malvar, Sam Quintana, Bon Lentejas, Kayline Alcantara
Director: Ralston Jover
Release date: Nov 9

15. Water Lemon

Set in the sleepy coastal town of Mauban, Quezon, follows the story of an aging mother, her brilliant son with Asperger Syndrome, and an old man who owns a computer shop.

Charming and funny as it celebrates the little things in life that mirror the serenity of Mauban in Quezon.

Stars: Jun-Jun Quintana, Tessie Tomas, Meryll Soriano, Alessandra de Rossi, Lou Veloso
Director: Lemuel Lorca
Release date: October 22

14. Ari: My Life With a King

The story of a Kapampangan youth who doesn’t know how to speak in Kapampangan–and doesn’t want to–until he runs into a compelling but weird character known as the king of Kapampangan poets. 

The beauty of its simplicity and focus on the little things in life are more than what could be cherished in the story.

Stars: Ronwaldo Martin, Francisco Guinto
Director: Carlo Enciso Catu
Release date: December 17

13. Imbisibol

Imbisibol tells the tale of illegal Filipino immigrants in Japan and their plight to evade authorities.

Brooding with the truths behind the lies in an episodic character study that explores the hardship of the unseen.

Stars: Allen Dizon, JM de Guzman, Bernardo Bernardo, Ces Quesada
Director: Lawrence Fajardo
Release date: March 18

12. Dayang Asu

Amidst legalized corruption, a son struggles to prove to his father that he is fit to survive in a dog-eat-dog world.

Crafted with sheer dedication to the art of filmmaking as it introduces its genre with teeth that bite deep.

Stars: Ricky Davao, Jun-jun Quintana
Director: Bor Ocampo
Release date: November 9

11. Honor Thy Father

A family is caught in a financial ruin after being involved in a ponzi scheme.

With a firm grasp on setting a comfortless atmosphere, Honor Thy Father holds one’s breath and lets it out with marvel.

Stars: John Lloyd Cruz, Meryll Soriano, Tirso Cruz III
Director: Erik Matti
Release date: November 8; December 25

10. Heneral Luna

Set during the Philippine-American war, a short-tempered Filipino general faces an enemy more formidable than the American army: his own treacherous countrymen.

Bizarre and humorous as it may seem, Heneral Luna is not afraid to tell its comprehensive research amplified by the skillful hands of its visuals, direction, editing and musical scoring.

Stars: John Arcilla, Mon Confiado, Epi Quizon, Arron Villaflor, Paolo Avelino
Director: Jerrold Tarog
Release date: September 9

9. Iisa

A thriller about a never-ending war, a town ravaged by a devastating storm and the woman caught in between.

Visually uncanny with a modest foundation on the issues tackled, Iisa knows exactly what to do with itself as a gloomy reflection of an aftermath.

Stars: Angeli Bayani, Rio Locsin, Jess Mendoza
Director: Chuck Gutierrez
Release date: October 22

8. Bambanti

Questions the prejudice of the rich towards the poor when a son of a househelp is suspected to have stolen the employer’s missing golden watch.

Bambanti is a solid look at a small town story that fires like the tip of a dynamite waiting to explode.

Stars: Alessandra de Rossi, Micko Laurente, Julio Diaz
Director: Zig Dulay
Release date: March 18

7. Matangtubig

The routine of the quaint rural town of Matangtubig is broken with the discovery of a girl’s remains, defiled in an open grass field, another girl, missing. Claims for justice and a search ensues, the national media turns its attention, as the town is put on trial for the secrets it keeps, a local fisherman struggles with his conscience to admitting as witness.

Visually poetic and aurally uncanny. A gem in horror in which fright remains mystified as if it has no end.

Stars: Amante Pulido, Dan Jarden De Guzman, Shielbert Manuel, Joel Saracho, Mailes Kanapi
Director: Jet Leyco
Release date: October 22

6. Miss Bulalacao

A drag princess gets pregnant following an alien abduction. Rumours of immaculate conception raise his status to cult leader.

Uniquely beautiful from the inside out as it owns its world. Striking filmmaking that deserves attention.

Stars: Russ Ligtas, Tessie Tomas, Mon Confiado, Nanette Inventor, Chai Fonacier
Director: Ara Chawdhury
Release date: November 9

5. Apocalypse Child

Simple story of friendship, loyalty, and desire that unravels the fractured nature of identity and delves in how truth can sometimes be the contorted lies people tell about themselves.

Powerful, focused and winsome throughout with its troubled characters that know their stories by heart.

Stars: Sid Lucero, Gwen Zamora, Ana Abad Santos, RK Bagatsing, Annicka Dolonius, Archie Alemania
Director: Mario Cornejo & Coreen Jimenez
Release date: October 22

4. Above the Clouds

A 15-year-old boy goes on a hiking trip with his estranged grandfather, and overcomes the grief of losing his parents on a mountain above the clouds.

Breathtaking as it provides enough space and time to take on a decisive journey to contemplate on our very own clouds.

Stars: Pepe Smith, Ruru Madrid
Director: Pepe Diokno
Release date: August 8

3. Manang Biring

A story of a terminally ill but feisty old lady who has learned to accept that she will soon pass away. One day, she receives a letter from her long estranged daughter saying that she will be home for Christmas. Knowing that she will not make it, Biring will go to great lengths to prolong her life and to give her daughter a Happy Christmas.

Mesmerizing to pieces as it pierces, cuts deep, reflects into the reality its animated world has created.

Stars: Erlinda Villalobos, Mailes Kanapi, Alchris Galura, Cherry Pie Picache
Director: Carl Joseph Papa
Release date: November 9

2. An Kubo sa Kawayanan

Michelle has a strange love story with her house by the bamboo grove, with which she developed a language, with things functioning as words only she could understand.

A meditative love letter to the beauty of silence, An Kubo sa Kawayanan observes the smallest objects with passion and meekness.

Stars: Mercedes Cabral, RK Bagatsing, Marc Felix
Director: Alvin Yapan
Release date: June 25

1. Anino sa Likod ng Buwan

Follows the story of a husband and wife who are refugees of war and their fragile friendship with a military man. What starts as a night of playing cards slowly escalates into a terrifying struggle for survival when deep secrets are revealed threatening to destroy everyone.

Suffocating with its brilliant storytelling, it moves like an inventive poem with cadence that can easily be followed. There is just an overflow of mastery exuded by its actors that makes Anino sa Likod ng Buwan memorable as it is vehement and erratic from within.

Stars: LJ Reyes, Luis Alandy, Anthony Falcon
Director: Jun Lana
Release date: October 23

best filipino films in 2015