There is something about being told stories that invites people into dreaming awake. The familiar invitation to narratives, whether factual or otherworldly, far extends any societal category and community division. One such expert who knows the politics of it all is hugot extraordinaire Antoinette Jadaone. Known mostly for her brand of romantic comedies, she unearths, really well, a side to the cinema genre explored differently by many other mainstream directors.
Road to romance
Jadaone’s very overt cinema signature is her incorporation of expeditions. As if traveling is symbolic of internal growth and turmoil, the female visionary uses journeys as an emblem of moving forward in life. This becomes especially apparent in That Thing Called Tadhana where characters Mace (Angelica) and Anthony (JM) go from airport to airport, and eventually from city to mountain top.
The JoshLia hit Love You to the Stars and Back shares the same design. Mika and Caloy have their own fairytale meet-cute before both characters traverse grassy hills to get to Mt. Milagros. Correspondingly, Jadaone makes use of the same ingredient for Jadine’s Never Not Love You where the movie’s leads travel to London.
Alone/Together, Jadaone’s latest silver screen baby doesn’t stray from that space. Brought to life by the LizQuen dynamic, Christine and Raf go museum-hopping in New York years after their romantic ties have withered. And though the Toni-Coco movie You’re My Boss doesn’t ring that loud of a bell to many local cinephiles, it’s worth mentioning that this Jadaone project includes a breathtaking Batanes adventure.
Arts, Dreams, and Struggles
One thing this article’s cinema champ gets right many times is her responsive translation of pain and her steady inclusion of creatives. In Tadhana, Anthony opens up to Mace about his painting past. A fine arts graduate from UP, he claims to have been a canvass illustrator before falling in love with the monetary promise of graphic design.
Five years after Tadhana is released, bits of Anthony’s backstory lives on in Liza’s Alone/Together character. Once it’s made clear that Tin’s Iska days are over, the former art student finds herself living life as a corporate staffer – far from her dream of becoming an esteemed museum director. Stretched even further, this recognizable artist profile is personified by Gio; a character James plays in NNLY. In the movie, he plays a carefree design enthusiast devoid of any actual responsibilities his peer bracket generally frets over.
Although not consistently, Jadaone does a swell job writing about characters who have an affinity with the arts. Perhaps it is her depiction of untapped potential that resonates rather vividly to viewers. Tadhana’s Anthony, NNLY’s Joanne, and Alone/Together’s Tin all have storylines that involve being segued from their north stars. Very fitly, Jadaone romanticizes the reaching of dreams, and crafts, very subtly, the severity of regret over missed opportunities.
Fleshing out formula
Like many mainstream filmmakers, this essay's woman of the hour is no stranger to the immersion of commercial fiction. As actions are the backbone of interpretation, many have pointed out how the reasoning of Alone/Together’s Tin and Raf could have been fortified with a tighter narrative. To a degree, Love You To The Stars and Back borrows a slice of that truth. While Barretto and Garcia prove to be convincing thespians, their endearing movie chance encounter doesn’t merit the extemporaneous level of trust and empathy their characters display.
Because people can only truly care for those whose reasoning they understand full well, a compelling rationale should be underway.
Still, Jadaone is an expert in devising big movie moments. She plays with the strengths of her stars—helps widen their range, even—and manages to create 'recallablity' out of the most ordinary bantering of her movie’s leads. Given her insightful take on the romance category, it’s not impossible for local cinema enthusiasts to remember dialogue and a scene or two from any of her films.
Privilege and Movie Magic
The characters Jadaone brings to life are spirited, spiteful, and spontaneous. She realizes broken people in an environment that pacifies their rage and transforms them into willed romantics. But along with her characters’ spontaneity is a privilege not everyone shares – the power to abandon all routine to embark on an adventure.
For instance, in Relaks, It’s Just Pag-ibig, a project Jadaone top-bills with fellow visionary Irene Villamor, all three of her story’s high school leads go on an impromptu adventure to Leyte. In Tadhana, recent vacationers Mace and Anthony sign up for yet another retreat despite having just come from Europe. And although no boat tickets were spent for in Love You To The Stars and Back, Mika’s and Caloy’s road trip and overnight accommodation did not come free.
Now, moments like these aren’t entirely impossible in themselves. But with an economy that strongly limits what majority of the working class can spend on, not everyone can take on the search for finding one’s self in far places, let alone in immediacy. Perhaps it is Jadaone’s ability to punctuate cinematic events in otherwise hurtful realities that make her stories click. Her capacity to crystallize movie magic in the most mundane circumstances helps attract viewers to believe in the impossible.
After all, isn’t that why we watch movies in the first place? ...to escape reality?
Fun facts and Filipino music
Before Angelica brought to life Jadaone’s brokenhearted Mace in Tadhana, she was initially Jadaone’s Estelle in Beauty In A Bottle; the showbiz starlet who had weight issues and, for the love of English, could not deliver her one line for a commercial shoot. JM, on the other hand, has managed to maintain a presence in many of the director’s cinema endeavors. Right after he portrayed Anthony in Tadhana, he had a cameo in You’re My Boss playing Toni's ex. And just recently, he lent his singing voice for Alone/Together’s original soundtrack by performing 214; a Rivermaya original.
Musically, the most movie-driven song among Jadaone’s projects might just be Tadhana for her That Thing Called Tadhana. Performed by UDD, the track is perfect as it compliments the story and emanates rich, indie vibrations. Furthermore, Moira provides a charming rendition of ‘Torete’ for Love You To The Stars and Back. By tying an already popular song to the project, the film’s OST feels more like a marketing ploy to further advertise the movie rather than coming up with an original song specifically for the film. Jadaone uses the same trick for NNLY. By using Sugarfree’s Prom, the movie is espoused to a track that’s been around for years. Nonetheless, the song is apt for the film and it works.
Overall, she sprinkles just the right amount of fairytale dust to reinforce her magic of timing in romance. After everything in love and war has been fought for, felt, and forgotten, Jadaone proves once and for all, she knows exactly where broken hearts go.