To be completely honest, I’ve only really seen James Reid and Nadine Lustre in two episodes of ‘On The Wings of Love.’ This is my first time to really see what this love team has to offer and why it’s so famous.
And now, I understand what it’s all about. The chemistry is electric, James Reid is charming as hell, and Nadine Lustre is a powerhouse. Paired with writer and director Antoinette Jadaone, who seems to have leveled-up, ‘Never Not Love You’ is a bold, yet quiet film that is unafraid to get real about an intense love and how hard one must work at it.
It’s really the simplest of stories. A young career woman meets a young carefree artist and sparks fly and romance blossoms. He’s a freelancer who only wants to be happy while she’s from the province, working hard in Manila sending money to her family back home with a plan for her life. But their love for each other gets in the way and they are forever changed and it’s a lot harder than they imagine it’s going to be.
‘Never Not Love You’ is not a film that relies heavily on plot. It’s a character-driven piece that explores the twists and turns of life and love. The movie depicts the growing up and the realizations of young people driven into an intense relationship and realise what love actually demands from each other.
Jadaone pulls out all the stops in ‘Never Not Love You.’ She is unafraid to get really close and intimate with her lead stars. Knowing full well the power of their chemistry, she maximizes it without ever being exploitative, never pushing the scenes for the sake of the thrill of seeing Reid and Lustre together. She weaves a story of two people falling in love, making a promise to each other, and then bringing in the reality of life into the mix and showing us that it takes a lot of effort into making love work.
For a romantic drama, ‘Never Not Love You’ does not romanticize love. Jadaone captures the thrill of it at its beginning and then shows us the realisations that come when life kicks in.
It feels real and it’s wonderful that way. Her camera work is beautiful, coming close and then pulling back, filling each of the city scenes at night in with shadows and darkness but also a bright orange light, a warmth that pervades. In the day time, it’s bright and sunny, revealing all. It’s the push-and-pull of reality and the fantasy, the polarising feelings of being in love and having to face the truth. It’s intimate and close but it’s also distant and intimidating.
And seeing Reid and Lustre, for the first time, is a wonderful surprise. James Reid, as the carefree artist Gio, is charming and real. There is an anger in him that Reid taps into when Gio goes off into his temper tantrums but can easily display his vulnerability with the right trigger. You can see he’s listening and it’s a joy to watch.
But the real star of ‘Never Not Love You’ is Nadine Lustre. There is a whole world of emotions within her that she carries with every movement. She makes Joanne more than just your typical provincial girl with big city dreams. She goes to-and-fro between emotions, an inner conflict at work in all of her scenes when she realises life and love are not as easy to navigate even with a plan.
The film tackles growing up and how something so intense and passionate can change a life and a relationship. There is a clever reversal of roles that underlines many of the powerful themes about love that ‘Never Not Love You’ tackles.
For a film with what feels like a record-breaking number of ‘I love yous’ in the script, it never feels contrived because it never comes easy. It’s meant to lose its luster and shine and then redefined and revitalized with the passing of time.
‘Never Not Love You’ is probably my new favorite Antoinette Jadaone film and that’s saying a lot because she has so many good movies in her filmography but this is a film that feels fresh and daring and new because it’s unafraid to be honest and truthful about love and what it takes to make it work. It breaks down the fantasy of love without taking away what makes it so special. And if anything, it sure makes riding a motorcycle so appealing. If you don’t understand the whole JaDine phenomenon, this is the movie that will explain to you why it’s so popular. I’m now a fan.