Pwede na rin

Film review: Hindi Tayo Pwede - Ferdinand S. Topacio - The Philippine Star
Pwede na rin
From left: Tony Labrusca, Lovi Poe and Marco Gumabao star in the love triangle-cum-ghost story

In Hindi Tayo Pwede (HTY), the redoubtable tandem of Joel Lamangan and Ricky Lee explores the shopworn themes of hurt and healing, of remembrance and recovery, through the instrumentality of a cross-genre film: That of a love triangle-cum-ghost story. It has been done before, to great commercial success, in 1990’s Ghost, and with great philosophical complexity in the more recent A Ghost Story (2017). HTY approaches the subject in a more simplistic and linear manner, making its message accessible to more people. But is basic better?

Lovi Poe plays Gabby, who is best friends with childhood pal Dennis (Marco Gumabao), who has had unexpressed romantic feelings for her for the longest time. She meets and falls in love with a male namesake, played by Tony Labrusca. To prevent confusion, she insists on calling her lover by his full name, Gabriel.

Gabriel works for an advertising firm, and being the pet of the owner (Phoemela Baranda), he manages to have both Gabby and Dennis hired by his employer. In time, the affair between Gabby and Gabriel becomes serious, and they move in together. To the consternation of Dennis, who is forced to endure endless public displays of affection between two sweethearts, they make plans to get married. During a spat, Gabby leaves home and goes to Dennis’ house to spend the night. Gabriel, driving agitatedly in an effort to find her and make amends, meets an accident and dies. But — to the shock and then eventual delight of Gabby — shortly after he is buried, he suddenly materializes in their condo, and in the flesh, no less: Meaning that Gabby can see, hear and touch him. He is invisible to everyone else, though, although Dennis and Gabby’s other friends wonder who she is talking to sometimes. As years pass, Dennis can contain his feelings for Gabby no longer and makes a play for her affections. Initially receptive, Gabby’s growing intimacy with Dennis meets with the disapproval of her ghost lover and she tries to avoid Dennis. The movie then wrestles with the horns of an age-old dilemma: Should Gabby cling to her departed fiancé and the memories they once shared, or should she forget the past and embrace the future?

HTY is clearly not the best work of either Joel or Ricky; every Filipino moviegoer past 50 years of age knows that they have done much better. But even operating at less than full capacity, the director manages to turn in a movie that is at least workmanlike. The same goes for Ricky, whose narrative is effortless and easy to follow, although sometimes descending into bathos. While those looking for depth would be well-advised to go elsewhere, the movie is nonetheless eminently watchable. And that is because it is a crowd-pleaser, ticking all the boxes for a potential hit. There is flesh galore for genders of every kind (including butt exposure for Marco) and love scenes by both male leads with Lovi that are more daring than usual (including nipple-licking) but which never cross into the boundary of the offensive. Lovi also photographs exquisitely, exuding loveliness at every angle. Tony and Marco are the epitome of hunky, making the movie as pleasing to the eyes as the choice of diegetic music (including Willy Cruz’s classic I’ll Never Say Goodbye in its original version by Nonoy Zuñiga) is caressing to the ears.

As regards acting, Lovi has improved a lot, eschewing most of the hammy mannerisms displayed in last year’s The Annulment, and instead giving a performance that is largely subdued and laidback. The same goes for Marco, after an embarrassing turn in Just A Stranger (2019); his reading of a long-suffering unrequited suitor, while not that adroit, evinces an intensity previously unseen. Tony, however, while trying assiduously, is not up to the intricacy required of an actor playing a tortured soul who is stuck in an earthly limbo watching helplessly as the woman he loves, starts to forget him and embarks on a new romance. And in his heavy dramatic scenes, his facial countenance is that of someone trying mightily to hold in diarrhea.

If what you want, however, is the cinematic equivalent of an hour and a half of an emotional theme park ride running the gamut from laughter, to grief, to pity, to tears all the way back to hope, then HTY will deliver. The fact that a lot of the audience were bringing out their handkerchiefs and sobbing towards the end, shows that the film partly achieved its goal. Nothing earthshaking, far from perfect, but puwede na rin.

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