Alessandra de Rossi and Paolo Contis prove to be as glorious in their performance as this view of Iceland where most of the movie was shot.
Love story, Pinoy style
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - July 18, 2020 - 12:00am

What can you say about a 21-year-old girl who died?

Of course, I will be sad and sorry for her and the boy she leaves behind. Same answer to “What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?”, the opening question of the 1970 movie Love Story which is ranked No. 9 in the list of “most romantic films” by the American Film Institute (AFI). The 25-year-old girl is Jennifer “Jenny” Cavilleri, played by Ali MacGraw in the movie based on the best-selling novel by Erich Segal; while the 21-year-old girl is Jen, played by Alessandra de Rossi in Through Night and Day which was shown to a sparse audience in Manila in 2018 and, ironically, has turned into the No. 1 trend-setter streaming on Netflix in the country.

Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw in the 1970 hit fi lm Love Story, ranked No. 9 in the ‘most romantic’ list of American Film Institute.

Since millions have seen both movies, I think it won’t be a “spoiler alert” to reveal that both Jenny and Jen succumb to cancer at the end of the story, and the faint similarity doesn’t end there. Both girls leave their partners drenched in tears — poor girl Jenny’s is rich boy Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal at the peak of his machismo) and Jen’s is Ben (Paolo Contis in perhaps his best dramatic turn so far, totally effacing his comedic front).

Co-produced by Viva Films and OctoArts Films, and directed by Veronica Velasco from a story by Alessandra, Through Night and Day is about Jen and Ben, a soon-to-be-married couple who goes to Iceland for their prenup pictorial. Ben has saved for the trip which is his gift to Jen who is dreaming of visiting all the places with tongue-twisting names in that country she has grown oh-so-familiar with from her research. They are so compatible and so cozy-comfy with each other that there’s no dull moment between them.

Unlike Oliver who knows that Jenny is dying, Ben is clueless about Jen’s condition and notices only the abrupt changes in Jen’s attitude (easy glum, easy glow: One moment cheerful, next moment cranky) once they are in Iceland. He breaks up with her, moves to the US and eventually gets engaged to a New York-based girl. Then, he pays Jen a surprise visit and learns the whole truth and apologizes so profusely that, for a while, I thought Jen (hair now cropped short presumably due to chemo) would hush him up and, like how Jenny admonishes Oliver, say, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Paolo is a winner in that pre-farewell prolonged scene, not saying a word and only shedding copious tears while Jen launches into a monologue. That scene ends with Ben and Jen melting into each other’s arms.

They have several similar lachrymose (but not mawkish) scenes together, especially while touring Iceland and ending each day watching either the Aurora Borealis or the sunset because Jen loves the sunset (detect some symbolism there).

Besides Paolo and Alessandra (who are, incidentally, both half-Filipino/half-Italian), the movie has only one other actor, Joey Marquez, as Alessandra’s father (not counting Cheska Iñigo as Paolo’s New York-based mom who appears only online and so does the actress, Kathleen Paton, who plays Paolo’s fiancée). Joey the comedian disappears in all his scenes, especially when he tries to pacify Alessandra in her huge tantrum toward the end, and what surprises is Joey the drama actor at his best.

As does the now-classic theme song in Love Story, the poignant song I Will Be Here in Through Night and Day adds in heightening the dramatic impact of the movie, sung in a duet by Jen and Ben in their last happy moment together at his bar — you know, Tomorrow morning when you wake up and the sun does not appear, I will be here.

(Trivia: Heard that the production wanted to use Tears In Heaven, written and sung by Eric Clapton for his little son who fell from a high-rise in New York City, but Clapton said no.)

In the end, Jen is granted her wish of watching her last sunset with her head resting on Ben’s shoulder. But sadly, she’s deprived of watching one more sunrise.

Three cheers and bouquets of red, red roses to Alessandra, Paolo, Joey and direk Veronica.

Watch Through Night and Day on Netflix and you must be stone-hearted if you don’t cry.

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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