Elise is a romantic comedy starring Enchong Dee and Janine Gutierrez. The story is narrated from the point of view of Bert, Enchong’s character, and comprises mostly of flashbacks from his past.
Let’s start by saying that Elise is a poignant love story so beautifully told.
The storytelling is effective because of a well-written script that does not have dull moments and makes every scene count.
Bert narrates his tale to a nine-year-old girl named Remy (Miel Espinoza), a current student of his grade school teacher, Ms. Marithel (Shyr Valdez). Bert’s flashbacks date back from his childhood, when he met and became friends with his first love, Elise (Janine Gutierrez).
In the first 30 minutes of the film, viewers get to witness a lovely montage that captures the essence of childhood, innocence, and love in its purest form. Full of visual clues, it's a walk down memory lane for anyone with a traditional Filipino upbringing and who experienced puppy love. Timestamps are everywhere--as movie clips, traditions, cultural references, and old-fashioned behavior--giving you an idea of what year or decade it is. Incorporating these little details is an effective way of establishing the setting, and creates a wave of nostalgia for the audience.
There’s isn’t anything particularly disappointing about this film. You will, however, notice a phenomenon that’s common in big studio local releases. Unless it’s for a film like Mano Po, local productions don’t seem to put much consideration into whether actors cast as family members bear any physical resemblance to one another to show that they’re related by blood; or whether someone cast as a barrio lass actually has the demeanor of one.
Jackie Lou Blanco and Pilita Corrales play Bert’s mother and grandmother, respectively. Pilita is hilarious as the feisty Lola and Jackie Lou, very much the doting mom. And since they are mother and daughter in real life, it was too easy to imagine them as such in the film--you can see the physical resemblance. Bert, played by Enchong, looks entirely different and probably takes after his father.
Laura Lehmann plays Rita, Bert’s girlfriend when he was a teenager. As Rita, she did seem enamored with Bert and seamlessly played the perfect girlfriend and the modern woman with ambition. But it was apparent that she was having a hard time concealing her Westernized tongue.
No biggie, though—it’s not the first time we’re hearing someone with a coño accent portray a character with supposedly bucolic Pinoy roots. It’s not Laura’s fault at all. She was quite endearing as Rita-- not bad considering it’s her first undertaking as a film actress. She had a lot of screen time--too much, as a matter of fact. Bert and Rita’s love story was too long of a side trip that distracted us from the real journey: the one leading to Elise.
Elise boasts a strong cast that gave justice to their respective roles.
From Pilita and Jackie Lou to Laura and Janine who played the women in Bert’s life; to Earl Ignacio and Allan Paule who played the fathers of his girlfriends. Even the actors who played young Elise and Bert are as equally charming, and brimming with onscreen chemistry. We soon understand why these people were handpicked to be part of this film, despite minor disparities; these actors can become the characters they portray.
Everyone is either endearing or relatable.
Victor Anastacio, who plays the cocky and irreverent Gian, is one of the reasons why there’s never a dull moment in the film, even in instances that could use even just a brief moment of seriousness. At certain instances, his creepy interference may have been a bit too much. But we have to give it to him--his quick-witted exchanges with Enchong were certainly entertaining.
Miel Espinoza’s Remy is a curious, naughty girl who seems genuinely in need of loving parents, and while her dialogues with Bert border on disrespect, the audience should take this with a grain of salt and accept it as part of the narrative.
On the surface, Enchong and Janine make a handsome pair, but just as it takes time for Bert and Elise to officially become a couple, it also takes a while for the Enchong-Janine tandem to work.
Their onscreen chemistry progresses simultaneously with the developments in the love story, and it’s a good thing. The natural progression makes the storytelling more sincere, something you’d hope from a plot inspired by real-life events. And just when you think they’re having fun and games, you finally see it: they’re glowing, resplendent with their love and affection for each other.
Although generous doses of humor are fused into the movie, Elise, for the most part, is a touching film laden with genuine sentiments. It will remind you of past experiences and unearth feelings that have been dormant for a very long time.
Bert’s heartbreak becomes your own, and his bliss is something that you too, will share. You walk out of the cinema feeling grateful to have witnessed a beautiful tale unfold, and wish that love stories were always so beautiful.
Produced by Regal Entertainment, Elise is Graded A by the Cinena Evaluation Board. It is now showing in cinemas.