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MOVIE REVIEW: “I Love You, Hater” imparts heartbreaking but liberating truths about family, forgiveness, and acceptance

Star Cinema’s “I Love You, Hater” hardly manages the entanglements of its narrative right. It is not a deep story, but there are a lot of under-plots  it aspires to cover, that didn’t quite earn a proper resolution.

That’s an undeniable blemish to this charming anecdote of an overly-familiar teen romance, but the film’s visual and thematic virtues remain adequate to keep everything more than just tolerable. Well-acted and inspired, the film coasts on the charismatic appeal of its leads and their dramatic competence to get the film’s powerful intents, across.

File Photo (LionhearTV)

In the beginning of the film, Zoey (Julia Barretto), learns that Sasha Imperial (Kris Aquino), a popular digital media personality, is looking for a new personal assistant. Not wasting this rare chance to work with her idol—whom she dreams to become, someday—Sasha rushes to her office to contend for the position.

But to her dismay, Sasha announces that she already found her new assistant—Joko Macaraeg (Joshua Garcia). Stubborn and determined, Zoey insists that she is the one more fit to do the job, because unlike Joko, she is a girl who understands Sasha’s largely female market, better. This prompts Joko to pull off a pretense, and claims that he is actually a gay guy. Amused, Sasha hires both Zoey and Joko, instead, for a three-month apprenticeship, so she could pick the more suitable choice for the job.

Already done two films and several tv shows together, you would think that the magic of Joshua and Julia’s tandem have somehow faltered. But in this Giselle Andres-helmed romantic comedy, the vigor and excitement is as fresh as the first time this beautiful pair, graced the big screen. Andres have navigated a similar story with Maymay Entrata and Edward Barber’s debut, ‘Loving in Tandem’, but here, she manages to bring more genuine motivations to life, allowing her film’s more relevant strengths, outdo its uneven script.

Joshua Garcia is brilliant. That statement may be an oversimplification if we were to bring his more singular performance in JoshLia’s breakout hit, “Love You To The Stars and Back”  into the discussion. In “I Love You, Hater”, however, Garcia manages to impart an equally dignified performance, highlighting both his comic and dramatic dexterity.

File Photo (LionhearTV)

There are a couple of memorable moments in the film where he never escaped the shadow of Caloy (Love You to the Stars and Back),  but one wouldn’t question the merit of imbuing the essence of Caloy and his emotional depth into Joko, especially on crucial dramatic moments in the film.

Julia Barretto, similarly, delivers . She radiates with her character’s fragility and resolve. Her more notable performances in the film include Zoey’s own breakdown moments where she completely bares the dramatic actress inside her.

File Photo (LionhearTV)

Not surprisingly, the moments she shares with Joshua are equally magical, the frames they grace together, oozing with electrifying chemistry. Spontaneous and inherent, such chemistry allows Joshua and Julia infuse a more relatable romance in their story. But perhaps, more importantly, their connection enforces their respective plights, and makes the emotions embedded in them, more sufficient and emphatic.

It is hard to refute that Kris Aquino pulls-off a thunder-stealing revelation in this movie, which also serves as her comeback to the big screen after a 3-year hiatus. Practically portraying the movie version of herself, Kris delivers a no-sweat performance and makes Sasha the same Kris we know and love: flamboyant but fragile, conscientious but brutally frank.

File Photo (LionhearTV)

She has her own moment with Ronaldo Valdez, where she really surprises, her dramatic skill impeccably delivered.

At times overdramatic, the film’s breezy tone facilitates the narrative to getting to a more balanced form and allows it maintain an equilibrium between the many mood inclinations of the story.

This film never escapes the familiar Star Cinema practice of integrating plots that deal with broken families into the story, and while there are arguably some gray areas left unresolved, the effort still pulls at the heartstrings, serving as yet another reminder of how ugly and beautiful life can be, at the same time.

There is an incredible amount of honesty in which the narrative is entirely immersed, imparting heartbreaking but liberating truths about family, forgiveness, and acceptance.

“I Love You, Hater” may be largely defined by its formulaic structure, but its magic is chiefly generated by the aesthetic and emotional chemistry between its lead characters. Potent and in accord with the motives of the narrative, this magic explodes in both strong and vulnerable moments in the film, making the emotional sequences, moving and heartfelt, while keeping the humor and romance, effective and affectionate.

5 – Excellent
4 – Very Good
3 – Good
2 – Tolerable
1 – Terrible

“I Love You, Hater” is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

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