There are three things that the film ‘An Inconvenient Love’ wants you to know within the first act of the film’s narrative. First, that this is a good old-fashion Star Cinema/ABS-CBN Films rom-com with all the magic that those qualifiers imply. Second, that the world is tough (with images of a rally and protest staged by workers against their employers juxtaposed by the struggles of the working class just getting to work everyday) and that in the hustle and bustle of daily living, really, love is such an inconvenience. It can derail everything. And thirdly, that the chemistry of lead stars Belle Mariano and Donny Pangilinan is electric and can light up a whole theater with their onscreen sparks.
There’s so much to enjoy in director Petersen Vargas’ ‘An Inconvenient Love.’ From the way it opens with real-world challenges (such as the aforementioned strike) and a revisiting of the typical rich boy-poor girl rom-com dynamic to the way with which the film pushes all that aside to make way for the romantic thrills that comes with the movie and how it all manages to get all these narrative points intertwined again for its dramatic ending. This film is a healing salve to these troubled times as it is not afraid to juxtapose pressing issues of labor and economic struggle with the highs and lows of romantic love. There is an escapism that is formed in the second act of the film when all the social awareness issues head to the background to focus on the kilig moments – when the film embraces its rom-com tone and atmosphere head on – but easily brings it back for its satisfying resolution.
It’s the story of a rich boy, Manny (Donny Pangilinan), who is a shop owner and is rebelling against his dad by supporting the workers of his dad’s company, who are on strike. Manny meets Ayef (Belle Mariano), a working student, whose dream is to finish school and work in Singapore. They meet on a bridge, with Manny running away from a protest gone violent and he asks for Ayef’s help to get away. It’s love at first sight for the two as the adrenaline from the situation heightens each other’s senses and they become fully aware of each other.
Both Manny and Ayef are attracted to each other but there are more practical concerns that need their more immediate attention. At this point in time, love really is an inconvenience and the film really finds interesting ways to highlight this.
But love is such a tempting escape and both decide to make a contract for a love that is convenient and practical; a contract that would not hinder both parties – Ayef most especially as she wants to continue her dreams of flying off to Singapore – from living their lives.
But that’s not how these things go and the film manages to explore the consequences wonderfully.
This is my first time watching Mariano and Pangilinan and I get it now. The chemistry is palpable. Pangilinan does have moments (usually his scenes without Mariano) where he’s not in the moment as I would like him to be but when he’s working a scene with Mariano, it’s pure magic. She, on the other hand, has a very un-self-conscious way about her that makes her feel so real and grounded. She doesn’t rely on pretty to make her character work and she’s so enjoyable to watch.
Amongst the ensemble, Teresa Loyzaga and Matet De Leon are the ones who truly stand out and don’t feel at all like supporting characters. They inhabit their characters so fully that you feel like you can make a separate film on just their characters alone.
Vargas does an incredible job at juggling the elements he’s working with and knows the strengths and weaknesses of the film. He even playfully plays around with some Kdrama tropes at the beginning of the film – the umbrella sequence, someone falling and someone catching the other, even mentions of Kpop fandom – but is quick to let it go once his movie is in full swing.
Overall, ‘An Inconvenient Love’ is such a return to form for ABS-CBN and Star Cinema. It’s vibrant and playful and unflinching to both its genre and its story’s own message.