Judging by its trailer alone, one may be tempted to think that Star Cinema’s Hello, Love, Goodbye, is only a test vehicle for a new love team steeped in immigrant drama. And to some extent, it is.
However, it may well be one of the most endearing portrayals of the Filipino diaspora in recent years, and one that captures the tenacity of the young Filipino’s spirit.
Joy (Kathryn Bernardo) and Ethan (Alden Richards) are Filipino contract workers who meet and fall in love in Hong Kong. While both of them have their respective struggles, Joy is economically and emotionally worse off than Ethan. As the breadwinner, Joy is burdened by a tiresome family she supports back home and a complicated scheme to bring her family together in a foreign land.
Ethan himself is emerging from a year-long disagreement with his family and is striving to find a new direction in life.
By helping each other, they eventually find a way out of their woes but in the process are made to choose between staying together and separating to fulfill their individual dreams.
What perhaps sets this film apart from other Pinoy OFW movies put out before is the tremendous effort to keep it true to the OFW story but provide good value entertainment all the same.
In the hands of director Cathy Garcia-Molina, the glittering metropolis is stripped of its glamour to give way to cramped apartments, busy streets, and dingy back alleys — in a bid to draw us into the world of domestic helpers.
Early on, were are immersed in Joy’s immigrant state of mind as she plows though one exhausting day after another as she serves in a middle class household by day and moonlights as a helper in a restaurant at night.
Through an energetic montage of Joy’s routine, you feel her exhaustion and her resolve to triumph over the odds to attain her goals.
This is balanced out by a lighter treatment compared with OFW movies in the past. Gone for instance, are the overly-dramatic monologues on strife to ungrateful family members. The traditional family woes were indirectly addressed in jest or through the movies seen by the domestic helper sisterhood during their day off huddle at Central.
Gone too are the usual abusive employers. In their place are middle class Hong Kong residents just struggling to get by with the aid of their foreign helpers.
Things are kept lively by a jovial supporting cast composed of Joy’s domestic helper friends Kakai Bautista, Lovely Abella, and Maymay Entrata who supplied most of the comic relief throughout the film. Matching them in antics are Ethan’s buddies, Joross Gamboa and Jeffrey Tam.
Lest the film be accused of neglecting the love story between Joy and Ethan, here is where it follows the time-tested formula of the chase, the encouragement of friends, the appearance of the exes, the doubts on the relationship, and the eventual finding of courage to be together.
But just when you thought it is finally going down the well-trodden path, a wrench is one again thrown into the well-laid plans, keeping it exciting and moving until the end.
Kathryn did the heavy lifting in the dramatic parts, staying consistent with her character even through the romance and fan service scenes.
Alden served to be a foil to her character, lightening up the mood and keeping the scenes interesting but holding up his own in dramatic sequences.
The easiest flaw to find in Hello, Love, Goodbye would be how Star Cinema cannot loosen its grip on its love story formula and how pick up and hugot lines have now become fairly standard in attracting an audience.
There are moments when it does feel Ethan and Joy may be overdoing the whole “I love you, I don’t love you” bit but, fortunately, everything was handled tastefully within the narrative and in a less melodramatic manner.
As a whole, Hello, Love, Goodbye is a beautifully-made, well-acted film that satisfies a wide audience.
Its new treatment of the OFW story make its easy on the heart and easier on the eyes while making a strong commentary on the Filipino’s toxic culture of dependence and parental influence on their adult children.
It may also well be a reflection of the young Filipina’s newfound strength as she breaks away from toxic traditions to realize her full potential.
It moves all your emotions and encourages you to seek greater meaning in your endeavors and examine your own sense of happiness.
And after all the rain and all the pain, the fan girl in you can delight in the fan service scenes when Joy and Ethan grab the chance to enjoy the glamorous side of Hong Kong as the film winds down to a graceful close.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.