It must be very difficult to play a scene opposite Piolo Pascual as romantic lead, as he is undoubtedly a beautiful specimen of a man. With chiseled features and a well-formed physique, many will forgive him if he did not deliver a convincing dramatic turn, because based on his looks, “quota na,” as they say.
Yet, in Northern Lights: A Journey To Love, Yen Santos holds her own opposite a Piolo Pascual who is primed not only as a romantic leading man but also as an onscreen father to newcomer Raikko Mateo.
Raikko is not only cute, he holds real potential to be a lead star, based on his even and natural performance in the movie. He is Charlie Jr., son of Charlie Sr. (Piolo) and Joyce (Maricar Reyes).
Charlie Jr. is yearning for a father because he never knew his biological father and his father figure eventually leaves as well. Raikko’s portrayal of a son yearning for a father and trying hard to establish a relationship with him is the anchor of the family drama aspect of the movie.
Yen is cast as Angel, a Filipina in search of something (or someone) in Alaska. She is at the same time wholesome and sensual--a difficult thing to pull off. However, she seems to have limited facial reactions and her voice has a tendency to sound nasal, which is off-putting at times.
Piolo is able to go from dashing male lead to anguished father and ex-husband in the film. He seems in his element in both roles, and transcends the temptation to simply look good onscreen throughout the movie.
At first, the onscreen pairing seems tentative, with Piolo looking at Yen just as intensely as he looks at his former leading ladies. However, Yen isn't quite able to match the desire reflected in his eyes.
Eventually, Charlie Sr. and Angel elicit favorable reactions from the audience.
The supporting cast members deliver believable performances. Sandy Andolong and Tirso Cruz III are perfect as Charlie Jr.’s grandparents who are craving the presence of their grandson. Maricar Reyes beautifully plays a mother torn between her love for her son and her residual feelings about his father. Joel Torre is, as always, flawless as Angel’s father; Glydel Mercado is a revelation as Angel’s repentant mother. Jerald Napoles, who is a good comic relief, achieves a balance of playful and thoughtful.
The story of Northern Lights is not so novel. Written by Onay Sales from a story by Dondon Santos, who is also the film’s director, it updates details to make them more grounded in the present.
The movie seems more a combination of family drama and love story, that just happens to be set in a distant country.
The story, though nothing groundbreaking, pulls the heartstrings and will appeal to a wide variety of audiences.
In some scenes, Piolo and Yen seem a bit tentative around each other as reflected by their body language.
Even the development of their characters feels too abrupt, since the sequences do not flow as naturally as possible.
The love scene of Piolo and Yen happens just as you start to think they may not come together. It comes as a bit of a surprise and teases without giving much away.
The film captures the landscape and skyscapes of its locations--including the vibrant colors of the aurora borealis--beautifully. The cinematography is pleasing and mesmerizing to the eyes.
For sure, there will be more visitors trying to go to Alaska and/or New Zealand as a result of this movie being filmed in those locations.
Now showing in theaters, Northern Lights: A Journey To Love is Graded B by the Cinema Evaluation Board and rated PG by the the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.