REVIEW: Aga Muhlach and Bea Alonzo touch--and then break--your heart in First Love

In First Love, Aga Muhlach and Bea Alonzo tackle terminal illness in this heartbreaking movie.


 

Set in Vancouver, First Love tells the story of Nick (Aga Muhlach) and Ali (Bea Alonzo), two Filipino migrants who serendipitously meet and fall in love. It all sounds simple with a promise of a happy ending, up until matters get complicated.

THE GOOD

It lets you jump right into the romance almost immediately. No dilly-dallying of when the main characters are going to meet and intentions are made clear, early on. This affects the storytelling: things happen faster than you expect, making every scene and every frame count.

Ali doesn’t waste time—or the little of it—she may have left, given her delicate heart condition. The straightforward and candid nature of her personality is liberating. It’s a reminder for Nick and every one of us to seize the day, to for whatever or whoever it is you want.

Not surprisingly, First Love teaches a lot about relationships, and junks false notions that people have about what construes an ideal romance.

For one, that it’s alright to go out into the open and telling the person how you feel, even if you’re the girl. And there’s nothing wrong with a relationship between two people with a large age gap as long as they’re both consenting adults; it happens, it’s real, and more often than not, it’s more stable and long-lasting than what other younger but immature folk share. Ali and Nick are 32 and 45 years old, respectively, and their love was almost perfect.

The film is also a window that lets us peek into the lives of Pinoy migrants living abroad.  It doesn’t go into too much detail, but it’s more than enough to convey that regardless of how many years Filipinos reside abroad, there are still values they would never compromise—they will remain Pinoy at heart.

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First Love isn’t a simple love story. It’s a precursor to tragedy; someone might die any given moment. Terminal illness is a key element in the story, and fortunately, it was tackled delicately in the film. It’s a very sensitive topic that some writers take for granted, but this film gives even the uninitiated sufficient detail without going too technical, just so they can understand someone with such health issues goes through.

For those who have been sick or whose loved ones have gone through serious, life-threatening illnesses, however, this film hits too close to home. It will remind you of that precise moment you had to bring someone to the hospital thinking they were going to die, and those crucial medical procedures people dread but still go through.

It will be heartbreaking to watch this film, but it might also be cathartic and help release any remaining repressed pain you may still be harboring inside.

THE BAD

In the film, Aga’s character acts as a father figure to a teenager played by Edward Barber. Not knowing Aga’s real relationship to Edward was helpful: it added an air of mystery to Aga’s character. But not having a clear picture of what he did is a loose end that should have been tied together. Aga’s connection to Edward is integral to who he is, and to the life choices his character makes. It would have made sense to clarify the details of their supposed connection, instead of having to make do with cryptic lines from either character.

THE WORTHY

Great films start with good scripts, and good scripts stem from great story idea. A well-written script lays the foundation for your film and dictates how you’re going to bring that story idea to life.

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First Love is a well-written story. It gives us two very endearing and relatable main characters. Their dialogue is engaging and natural, and appropriate for their supposed ages and personalities.

Based on her words, gestures, and beliefs, Bea Alonzo’s Ali is the epitome of a millennial—creative, outspoken, and eager for new experiences, while she still can.  Her portrayal is a refreshing take on what a modern woman is, and should be allowed to be.

Aga, as Nick, on the other hand, is the conventional, ageing Gen X-er who has lost his zest for life, waiting for it to be over. Despite being on hiatus from acting for a long time, Aga proves that he can still do what he does best: to make everyone fall in love with whichever character he is portraying.

Nick and Ali’s personalities collide, but the attraction is too strong and having a beautiful city as their backdrop simply makes it impossible for them not to fall in love. There are quite a few accent shots that showcase breathtaking sights, but what’s even more remarkable is how the cameras are able to convince us that Nick and Ali’s love is the sweet, pure, and tender kind—regardless of the fact that they aren’t teenagers anymore. It still feels like first love.

Musical scoring made the scenes even more moving, adding texture and emotions where necessary. Footage and scoring were more than enough for some of the sequences, discounting the need for dialogue. Nice touches with the soundtrack, too—a small but healthy variety that includes songs by VST & Co. and The XX.

First Love has so many other twists and revelations on top of the relationship angle, but it doesn’t feel like a hodgepodge of drama, romance, and music forced into one vehicle. Director Paul Soriano did a great job binding these elements together, telling the story almost seamlessly as a result.

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First Love may be scenic but it doesn’t come across as a postcard with no other story to tell. It’s funny when it needs to be and makes you cry even when you don’t want to. It’s a poignant love story that you need to see.

 

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. 


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