There is a persistent strain which tightly keeps the fragments of the new Cathy Garcia-Molina film together. Pain as displayed in numerous movies like Hello, Love, Goodbye is a powerful story motivator, and in this case, that strain comes chiefly from the endeavors of the lead characters, and the wonders created from the hefty load of devastating truths embedded within their haunting narratives.
And while romance and light moments still share a sizable chunk of its entirety, the most affecting and most compelling parts are the ones where the plight and heartaches of the characters are given much attention.
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In the film, Kathryn Bernardo plays Joy, an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) trying to make ends meet in Hong Kong. She meets Ethan (Alden Richards), a bartender who shares a similar story of redemption and self-discovery in a foreign land. Their worlds collide, triggering an unexpected romance, which greets them with its exciting promise of forever, only to end up in a snap with a heartbreaking goodbye.
Like in most local romantic films, immense effort is spent to allow romantic chemistry bloom between the lead characters. Such attempt largely fails to create a satisfying impression, but that’s only when compared to the massive dramatic rapport displayed by Bernardo and Richards, who both excelled individually in their respective major moments.
To be fair with the swooning fans, it is easy to feel the heat of the romantic flare meant to be kindled by Joy and Ethan. There are memorable moments of endearing exchange between them that are inherent to a romance book love affair, which is a cute effort as it imparts a humongous sense of excitement and kilig. But the real magic really happens when the narrative shifts to shedding light on their individual stories.
Joy, who has spent years of hard labor as a domestic helper in Hong Kong while devoting the rest of her time to juggling many other side jobs, finally decides it is finally time to leave and go to Canada where a better pay is waiting. This decision eclipses her eagerness to stay for Ethan, whom she eventually falls in love with, after the latter’s earnest pursuit. How the film shreds Joy as a character is remarkably salient, as it decorates her with powerful suggestions of her struggles and sacrifices for her family, and for the self she longs to find in the process of dealing with her personal battles.
Bernardo easily fits the template in which Joy, as a character, is confined. There is a beautiful portrait drawn out of her suffering, largely made attractive and profoundly affecting by Kathryn’s impeccable dramatic effort. How the film made the beauty in her circumstances coincide with the gloominess of the story’s setting, is remarkably intelligent, as it strips both Bernardo and Hong Kong of their usual glamor, while creating allure out of Joy’s heartaches and Hong Kong’s deceptive physical prestige.
Alden Richards, on the other hand, has more convincing moments when he shares the screen with Bernardo. He is best viewed at an angle which allows the audience to indulge in his physical beauty, particularly in moments where the script bares his romantic connection with Joy. This is not to say Ethan has no interesting dramatic facets to show, it is just that he is more easily appreciated during his encounters with Kathryn’s character.
That being said, Richards delivers in the very few moments where his character entails him to shrug off his physical charisma, and lets his artistic capacity navigate Ethan through the deeper areas of his story.
Molina’s intent to deglamorize Hong Kong and peel off its superficial layer is made evident by how the film chose to delve into the less-attended streets of the city and practically set aside the more appealing landscapes of the bustling metropolis. The film tries and succeeds in rendering an image whose elegance does not almost only come from gloss and symmetry, but also and more specifically, from the serenity and chaos of its setting. The attempt complements both Joy and Ethan, as their characters are showcased more effectively by Bernardo and Richards during their moments of loss and breakdown.
Ultimately, the most fascinating thing about Hello, Love, Goodbye is the utterly moving portrait it paints out of Joy and Ethan’s individual journeys. And while their correspondences may strongly depict them as strictly a romantic couple, the film will be best remembered by how it transpired an inspiring tale of hope and perseverance, and all the sacrifices people endure for the ones they love. The film embraces the conventionality of its characters and the formula by which they are molded, but never really makes them capable enough to undermine the deeper themes the story intends to impart: family, dreams, among others. This choice to subdue romance and highlight the personal struggles of the characters grants the film a better capacity to grasp the audience by the heart, and leave an indelible imprint of a hopeful story that is worth telling over and over again.
5 – Excellent
4 – Very Good
3 – Good
2 – Tolerable
1 – Terrible
Also starring Maymay Entrata, Jameson Blake, Kakai Bautista, Joross Gamboa, Maricel Laxa, Lovely Abella, Lito Pimentel, and Jeffrey Tam, Hello Love Goodbye is now showing in more than 400 cinemas, nationwide.
Watch the full trailer below: