Relaks, It’s Just Pag-Ibig opens on a montage of romantic correspondence, of people using various means of communication to express their love. It sets the tone quite well for everything that's about to happen. The film makes it clear from the very start that there is love all around, and that it is beautiful. This unabashedly optimistic outlook informs the rest of the story, which finds teenagers going on the grand adventure that is their first love. Relaks, It’s Just Pag-Ibig takes a sweet journey through the tumultuous landscape of the teenage heart, finding all the joy in exploring the unknown.
Rich kid Joshua (Inigo Pascual) accidentally leaves his phone at the house of Sari (Sofia Andres). She holds the phone hostage for a while, and the two get to know each other a little bit as they negotiate the return. Sari drags Joshua along on a trip to Leyte, where she hopes to find the writer of a love letter that she found a year ago. The two grow close as they get into one misadventure after another. But Joshua has a girlfriend back home that isn’t quite ready to give him up. And the sudden arrival of Sari’s best friend Kiko (Julian Estrada) throws a wrench into this burgeoning romance as well.
The story is framed as this big romantic quest, but it is built around these small, lovely moments of discovery. The film presents an idea of romance that essentially calls for going out of one’s comfort zone. The film externalizes this struggle as a big road trip that takes the characters into unknown territory, but the real adventure is taking place inside them. The first big moment of this relationship feels like a throwaway moment, with Joshua admitting something surprisingly personal to a girl he barely knows over the phone. But this is what romance is: small moments suffused with meaning.
The film is unabashedly sweet, even as it delves into the thornier realm of heartbreak. As the title might suggest, the movie never lets itself get bogged down with seriousness. These are kids, after all. The film is happy to let these kids be kids, to let them go through all the ridiculousness of being young and in love. And that involves fighting and pouting and occasionally breaking into song and making up. It’s all just very sweet, the scenes imbued with what feels like a personal recollection of a first romance.
The only thing that cuts into this sweetness is the existence of Joshua’s girlfriend, Cupcake. The character is mainly played as a joke, and the caricature comes off a bit meaner than it probably should. The film places her as a visual antagonist, a representation of everything that Joshua needs to leave behind, but the film doesn’t really need that. It gets enough out of its smallness. Erica Villongco really puts a lot into the character, but her outsized performance feels a bit incongruous. Sofia Andres, Inigo Pascual, and Julian Estrada get by on quieter moments.
But the flaw of Cupcake isn’t enough to derail Relaks, It’s Just Pag-Ibig. If anything, it just puts the pleasures into sharper focus. The film is about young love, after all, which is messy and silly and completely irrational. The title, as it turns out, is a statement of purpose. The film explores a wide, messy world of people deciding to take adventures together, and sometimes deciding to stop. But whatever the outcome, the adventure remains. The moon remains as bright in the sky, and will shine for lovers for millennia to come. Relax, the film says. Love is beyond reason. Just enjoy the adventure.