‘Five Feet Apart’ review: Heartwarming teenage romance

A fun-filled, tearjerker love story of sick teens who aren’t allowed to touch comes with an unexpected twist on letting go in Five Feet Apart.

Based on a book by Mikki Daughtry, Rachael Lippincott, and Tobias Iaconis, Five Feet Apart is about two teens inflicted with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that mostly affects the lungs and causes long-term difficulty in breathing and excessive production of mucus. Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) is an OCD-diagnosed fighter/vlogger who proficiently manages her treatments and medications, while her polar opposite Will (Cole Sprouse) is a hospital rule-breaker who’s jaded in participating to his drug trials for B. Cepacia – a bacteria he has contracted that further complicates his CF. Apart from being anxious of their unpredictable life expectancies, the two struggle with their strong desire for physical intimacy for each other.

Naturally, the two infuriate each other upon their first encounter. But as the rule of ‘opposites-attract’ say, an attraction easily blooms. There is a major caveat though as Will’s bacteria can easily be transmitted to other patients that have CF too. Stella may be a candidate for a new lung transplant, but for now, they have to stay six feet away from each other at all times, and that also applies to  the other ward patients. While the two teens try to work out the barriers of their relationships, they will also be forced to confront with their suppressed emotions as they try to figure out how to enjoy a normal teen life. The desire of living a carefree life contrasted with the necessity to take care of their well beings presents a difficulty in fostering their relationship, a tragedy that has been the most affecting part of the film. Their hopes of fighting an uphill battle together might not go to as they want it to be but this story sufficiently tells that love goes beyond physical connections.

Director Justin Baldoni delicately paints a wonderful presentation of not only a budding romance between two teens but also the hardships that CF patients have to go through. Not being able to touch or hug the person you’re fighting a similar battle with can be debilitating for a person who is in dire need of morale. In line with that, this film also presents great lessons on life decisions and valuing our family and friends. It’s not the same story with other typical hospital romances for the film showed a different perspective especially when it comes to letting go and acceptance. There are some parts that will make you squeal and there are parts where you might find yourself bawling in tears. The viewers will definitely be attached on how the two teens fall for each other despite their illnesses. It is in those difficult moments that you feel completely enamored by the vulnerability of the characters, a main aspect needed to deliver a heartfelt story.

Five Feet Apart gives us a picture how important a life is, challenged by a terminal illness as the main conflict. The hospital romance simply shows that every second spend with our loved ones matters. This is a film not just for people with sickness but for everyone who battles with the everyday challenges of life. It may lean on towards being cheesy, but one will enjoy the lessons and drama issues that revolves around it. Truly, every scene is fun and captivating.

The cast members do a remarkable and wonderful job in portraying their characters, making this film more watchable. Richardson plays such natural role on being a bubbly girl, showing both sides of vulnerability and spiritual strength as a patient. Sprouse, being the mysterious type he is, plays his role on a different level of charm as a sweet lover boy gifted with artistic skills. Together, they build up a great chemistry that should leave viewers yearning for more.

A story that will definitely leave a mark in your heart, Five Feet Apart takes you to an experience of fighting for life and love at the same time.

4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Justin Baldoni, ‘Five Feet Apart’ stars Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, Moises Arias, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Parminder Nagra, and Claire Forlani.

‘Hanggang Kailan’ review: Finding love in goodbyes

Bona Fajardo puts the chemistry of Xian Lim and Louise delos Reyes
into something unexpected in the feel good film Hanggang Kailan .

Hanggang Kailan opens on the first day trip of Donnie (Xian) and Kath (Louise) in Saga, Japan, the two celebrating their second year anniversary while trying to think of a convenient solution to their forbidden love affair. After one passionate night, their relationship finally starts to crack as Kath is reminded of the impending doom of their relationship. So instead of looking forward to spending more years together, both Donnie and Kath agreed on having this trip as their last, despite having lingering feelings for each other. But before they completely part ways, both of them make a final effort to settle their issues. Needless to say, tears will be flowing and hearts will be breaking for the rest of the film.

Hanggang Kailan redefines the romance genre by showing a feel-good story set in the picturesque Japan, despite having a bittersweet themes on the grim ending of a relationship. At its core, the film is painful and heavy – it’s quite different from all those romantic films that we often patronize because the love of its characters and the difficulty of letting go heavily weighs on you. The film makes the viewer realize that with goodbyes, a person can only hold on to old memories and no longer create new ones. Throughout their four day trip, the film takes us to their process of letting go, with different memories and confessions encountered each day. What strikes the most is their ultimatum goodbye scene that is undeniably a tough pill to swallow for viewers. It leaves the viewers feeling pitiful and hopeful for the two characters who seem to find enough consolation in their agreement should they bump into each other again in the future.

The overall feel of the film is both pleasing and painful to the senses. It has an engaging mix of humor and drama that never loses sight on what it has to say about the tragic relationship portrayed. The casting also helps in making this film feel more watchable. Xian makes a likable screen presence by showing his vulnerability and weakness, most identified with his character’s dramatic breakdowns. Louise, on the other hand, might be your typical pretty go-getter but she’s also able to show her acting prowess from the rollercoaster of emotions that the script demands. Together, their chemistry blossoms in ways that the viewers won’t expect.

More than being a melodramatic love story, ‘Hanggang Kailan‘ takes you to a heartfelt and resonant experience of a couple ending their relationship on such a refreshing and positive note.

4 out of 5 stars

Now showing in cinemas nationwide, Hanggang Kailan is produced by VIVA Films, BluArt Productions and XL8. Directed by Bona Fajardo, and starring Xian Lim and Louise delos Reyes.

‘A Star is Born’ review [1 of 2]: Grit behind the glam

Bradley Cooper recreates a role of a lifetime for him and Lady Gaga in ‘A Star is Born.’

There’s much more to the fourth reiteration of A Star is Born rather than being Bradley Cooper’s passion project. It operates on many levels – an underdog musical, a titillating romance, an existentialist tale, and most of all, a deconstruction of a glorified superstar. Such idea of stardom comes with a massive delusion from public perception, especially the fans who feel deeply connected with their icons, when in fact they know very little about them – their hard work, sacrifice, the constant battle against their inner demons and other external forces. A Star is Born examines the grit underneath the glitz.

We see a country rock veteran Jackson Maine (Cooper) who’s reached a point of his career where liquor and drugs (instead of passion and his fans’ undying adulation) becomes the fuel in his performances. Coming down from a show, he winds up in a local drag bar where waitress Ally (Lady Gaga’s movie debut) captivates him with a rendition of “La Vie en Rose.” When asked if she performs her own songs, the unassured but very talented singer-songwriter says that she’s not comfortable doing so because her physical appearance, especially her big nose, has always been a hindrance to make it in the business.

But Jackson sees a brilliant potential in Ally and gifts to her the confidence to take on the world. “All you gotta do is trust me,” he says. Next thing you know, she’s performing her original song “Shallow” in an arena filled with mad audience. There’s a palpable moment of catharsis once she gets into the glorious bridge section. The magic is undeniable. Not only a star is born in that moment, but also a movie star in Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performs ‘Shallow.’ Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures.

Stripped from elaborate costume and makeup, Gaga has never been more human and vulnerable on screen like this. While it’s expected that the pop star will blow you away with her singing chops, as an actress, she fleshes out her character into a multidimensional being. In a parking lot scene, Ally and Jackson have a heartfelt conversation about their lives and aspirations, letting the viewers peer into the scared dreamer inside her core. At the same time, Ally is a feisty soul who can pack a punch to a stranger if she feels protective over her friend.

Gaga sustains this level of believability right until her soul-baring and heart-shattering swan song, “I’ll Never Love Again.” You’ve probably heard a bunch of Oscar buzz for her and I’m glad to say that she delivers, maybe even better than what’s expected by some. Her acting performance here works as a declaration for the bolder roles she can take on in the future.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga performs ‘I’ll Never Love Again.’ Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures.

On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see Cooper in a different light – full-bearded and sporting his co-star Sam Elliott’s low baritone voice. The actor, being not a trained musician, reportedly went on six months of rigorous training and even contributed in composing some songs for the film. He fully embodies the persona of an alcoholic and drug addict country icon with a hint of humility and kindness. His chemistry with Gaga is off the charts – the two bring contrasting elements that otherwise complement well together.

However, the biggest accolade will have to go to Cooper for his work as a director. It’s easy to let loose in Gaga’s prowess and spin this into a full-blown musical show. But he resists doing so – at its core, A Star is Born is still a drama. Cooper revels in close-up shots, letting the camera caress the characters’ raw features to reveal different layers of insecurity, ambition, hurt and longing.

It’s evident that he’s been deeply attached to his work because he could’ve easily cut some of the scenes (and insert it as a DVD bonus feature) to achieve better pace and shorter run time. Still, for a first time director, Cooper does an excellent work in calibrating a classic film into something truly Academy Award material.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as touring musicians in ‘A Star is Born.’ Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures.

What fascinates me the most here is the idea of a former star descending to give way to the birth of a new star. As Ally’s career skyrockets (and starts mimicking Gaga’s actual career), Jackson spirals down to a path of destruction, courtesy of his alcoholic and substance abuse habits. A Star is Born speaks for the current landscape of music industry. Public attention are finite resources and artists are being replaced time and again, just like how Jackson’s music roots start to feel outdated (“Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die”).

Ally is slowly turned into something that she’s not – she changes her image and transitions to electro-pop music, which makes Jackson feels frustrated. “The one reason we’re here is to say something so people will hear it. You don’t apologize, you don’t worry why they’re listening or how long they’re listening. Just tell them what you want to say,” Jackson says. True to that platitude, Cooper, in his direction, grabs the mic and speaks what he feels.

A Star is Born, in its substantial run time, takes you into a full emotional journey of a superstar coming into fruition, with the film ultimately crushing your heart like a tin can in its final moments. It’s a fearless and luminous debut work – one can hope that both leads cross paths again in the future. The soundtrack itself features different music styles that mesh well and Cooper encases them in a terrific concert experience (provided you catch it in a Dolby Atmos theater, no less). This film deserves to go the distance and grab a couple of Oscar nominations.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Bradley Cooper, ‘A Star is Born‘ stars Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos, Michael Harney and Rafi Gavron. Based on the 1937 film of the same name. Run time: 135 minutes.

‘Just the 3 of Us’ unites John Lloyd, Jennylyn, Cathy Garcia-Molina for the first time

John Lloyd Cruz and Jennylyn Mercado team up for the first time with director Cathy Garcia-Molina in one movie – summer’s much-anticipated romantic film “Just the 3 of Us.”

The film is directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina from a script written and developed by the collaboration of Kiko Abrillo, Gillian Ebreo, Katherine Labayen and Vanessa R. Valdez.

“Just the 3 of Us” is centered on an unlikely love story between polar opposites Uno (Cruz) and CJ (Mercado) – two strangers, and how one night changes their lives forever. Unforeseen circumstances collide and force Uno and CJ to live under the same roof as they both deal with their sense of responsibility and their yearning for security. Uno is motivated by his sense of family while CJ is governed by an unconditional love that should put her first above everything else. The unlikely thing that binds Uno and CJ together paves the way for them to find in each other the kind of love they never thought they needed.

John Lloyd Cruz is the undisputed rom-com king of the industry, with a flawless track record in the box-office and an unmatched artistry as one of the country’s most accomplished young actor. John Lloyd recently broke all box-office records alongside Bea Alonzo in 2015’s A Second Chance – the highest grossing non-Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) movie of all time. As a result of the blockbuster feat of A Second Chance, John Lloyd is hailed as one of the Phenomenal Stars of 2015 in the recently concluded 47th Box Office Entertainment Awards. John Lloyd also received critical acclaim for the bravura of his performance in MMFF 2015’s Honor Thy Father and for his superb performance in the internationally acclaimed historical film, Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis.

Jennylyn Mercado, on the other hand, is a back-to-back MMFF Best Actress awardee who delivered unforgettable performances in 2014’s English Only, Please and 2015’s #WalangForever, films which also did very well in the box-office. English Only, Please was also recognized as a Breakthrough Box Office Indie Film in the 2015 Box Office Entertainment Awards.

At the helm of Just The 3 of Us is box-office director Cathy Garcia-Molina, whose most recent film, A Second Chance received remarkable reviews from the country’s most trusted and respected critics and overwhelming box-office receipts. Like John Lloyd and Jennylyn, Garcia-Molina was also recognized at the 47th Box Office Entertainment Awards as the Most Popular Film Director of 2015.

A heartwarming and slightly irreverent romance that features the combined work of John Lloyd, Jennylyn and Cathy, Just The 3 of Us is a one thing that countless fans thought would never happen. Witness John Lloyd and Jennylyn breathe life to Uno and CJ and discover the beauty and bliss of the most unexpected love story ever told in film.

Just the 3 of Us also stars Joel Torre, Maria Isabel Lopez, Ketchup Eusebio, Joem Bascon, Ynna Asistio, Victor Silayan, Fifth Solomon, Manuel Chua, PJ Endrinal, Michael Agassi, Josef Elizalde, Jed Montero, Lucas Magalang and newcomers Paulo Angeles and Chuchay Jung.

Opening across the Philippines on May 4, 2016, “Just The 3 of Us” is released and distributed by Star Cinema.

MOVIE REVIEW: Always Be My Maybe (2016)

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE never veers away from the cinematic universe of familiar hugot where Arci Muñoz is that exploding star that lives.

“Always Be My Maybe” Review
Starring Gerald Anderson and Arci Muñoz
Directed by Dan Villegas

As Star Cinema’s latest offering, released just four weeks after Everything About Her (which stars Vilma Santos, Angel Locsin and Xian Lim), Always Be My Maybe might feel like a rushed project on the surface but there is a tempting flavor within it that makes the end product still lovable and ultimately charming.

Here’s the conventional boy-meets-girl story with two characters getting to know each other, leading to the blossoming of romantic feelings, up to a happy ending in spite of all the troubles caused by confrontations and third parties.

Gerald Anderson’s Jake Del Mundo is your typical handsome playboy—well-poised to propose to his longtime girlfriend Tracy, only to get rejected. On the other hand is Arci Muñoz’s hopeful Tintin Paraiso who is under the false hope that she would finally get herself a fiancé, only to discover that her guy has just got into a relationship.

Heartbroken, they respectively try to mend their feelings until they meet in the resort he owns. He quickly recognizes her as the dejected tutorial girl whose tutorial videos have gone viral over social media platforms because of her injection of witty comparisons to love’s aches and shortcomings (sound familiar, right?).

After spending one night over bottles of beer and an endless conversation about their personal lives, a dreamy Jake becomes interested with a candid Tin. The fruition of their good friendship paves the way for intimacy.

They agree to be the wingman of each other in the attempt to find a better person than their exes. What they discover are the wonders of their being together: the irreplaceable closeness, the ease of lending an ear to hear the other’s share of burdens, and the idea that someone cares.

On that note, most of the film’s interesting points can be attributed to the surprise pairing of Anderson and Muñoz. Having a dozen of entries already added to his filmography, Anderson has made a name for himself as that bankable lead star (where most of the time he is paired to Kim Chiu) and any new girl would have the spotlight on her.

When Muñoz came into the picture, curiosity sparked as to how she could pull off her first starring role in a movie after her commendable stint as the third party in the John Lloyd Cruz-Bea Alonzo starrer A Second Chance. 

With them being surrounded by a lot of supporting characters that only drive the story for comic relief or to serve as conscience to Jake and Tin, it is good to point out how their teamup singularly works and how the chemistry is more than fascinating to root for. Enticing are their love scenes and the playful and friendly exchanges of teasing remarks.

Music also plays a big role in the overall mood of the film. Reminiscent of the musical scoring done in the two previous Dan Villegas films (English Only, Please; Walang Forever), the music here gives room to immerse one’s self into both the pains and joys of remembering. Marion’s “Free Fall into Love” gives that energetic tone that reverberates as it quickly sticks to memory with her enchanting voice and the song’s catchy lyrics.

Always Be My Maybe never veers away from the cinematic universe of familiar hugot–something that has long since been a fad as it is not difficult to relate to. Not that it is has to be its shortcoming or even serve as a complaint. For as long as there is a demand for such, the supply could not be helped but to overflow.

Recently, we had movies after movies that delve into the sentimentalities of Filipinos thanks to the likes of the works of Antoinette Jadaone, who happens to be the real-life partner of Villegas. Together, in the league of others who have climbed on the bandwagon, they are able to explore this universe that is all familiar and easy to grasp.

And in this particular universe, Arci Muñoz is that exploding star that lives. She exudes with indispensable charm and beauty. This is something to note for future references (other than to figure out the relation of the movie title to the story itself—which is undoubtedly a standard in any given Star Cinema movie).

Also starring Jane Oineza, Jairus Aquino, Kakai Bautista, Ricci Chan, Ahron Villena, Pepe Herrera, Nikki Valdez, TJ Trinidad, and Tirso Cruz III, Always Be My Maybe opened today, February 24, via Star Cinema, an ABS-CBN company.

Plus-sized woman finds ‘Relative Happiness’ in new romantic comedy

Plus–sized and 30 years old, Lexie Ivy is a feisty bed & breakfast owner who desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. In small town Nova Scotia, that’s no easy task, especially when the most eligible bachelor is Joss, the rough handyman fixing her roof. When Adrian, a handsome and charming guest, arrives and seems to take an interest in Lexie, she thinks all her problems are solved. But she misreads the situation and is soon reeling, believing her romantic dream has slipped away, maybe forever. Lexie then needs to open her heart and eyes to see that love may be a lot closer than she thought.

Every bit as feisty as Lexie herself, Relative Happiness is a romantic comedy starring Australian actress, Melissa Bergland, in a breakout role. The story is based on the best-selling novel by Lesley Crewe. It also stars Aaron Poole and Johnathan Sousa. Direction is by Deanne Foley and screenplay by the team of Lesley Crewe, Deanne Foley, Iain Macleod, and Sherry White.

Relative Happiness opens December 9, 2015 in Philippine cinemas nationwide as distributed by Solar Picture.

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