Barcelona: A Love Untold is about Ely (Daniel Padilla), who is in Barcelona studying architecture and nursing a broken heart. There he encounters Mia (Kathryn Bernardo), who just happens to look almost exactly like the girl that left him so broken. Mia is in Barcelona trying to make something of herself, running away from the disappointment of her family. She is immediately met with trouble in Spain, and Ely decides to help her out. Mia seems ill suited to life as an OFW, but Ely's guidance gives her a chance. At the same time, Mia reminds Ely of dreams not pursued, of regrets he may still rectify.
There are a lot of things to resolve in this movie. Ely, for example, is trying to get over a girl while living up to obligations that she set before they were so cruelly separated. He is also working several jobs so he can send money back home, and has issues with his mother, who is also in Barcelona. And then, of course, there’s his burgeoning relationship to Mia, who by a bizarre twist of fate, just happens to look exactly like the girl he can’t get over, which is kind of weird and icky in ways that the film isn’t really ready to address.
And this is just one character. The film certainly does not lack for drama. In fact, there is so much of it that it feels like the film is just drifting from one dramatic scene to the next, without really doing the work to justify the constant shift in emotions. The story keeps taking these narrative shortcuts. Something big may happen in one sequence, and in the next scene it hardly seems to matter. Sins are seemingly forgiven off camera, no one really afforded the time to let the conflict bloom into something substantial.
And yet the film is still long. There’s just too much business to cover. And there are still the elements of romance to handle. There’s still the need to show these two becoming a couple, montages of them being cute with each other, forgetting whatever other they may have. There are emotional incongruities all over this film. This is a film that sometimes jokes about a character needing to poop, and then at one point shows somebody being gunned down. The only thing that unites the sides of the story is a general broadness to everything, a lack of nuance in developing its humor, romance, or drama. And there are logical incongruities, like how Mia is fired in one job for talking on the phone too much, and is later shown still talking on a phone a lot while working.
There is a sliver of something really interesting in this film; a running theme of these young people being not totally in control of their lives, their futures seemingly beholden to the wishes of other people. But that idea gets lost in the broadness and the scattered nature of the storytelling. The primary dramatic conceit between the two main characters becomes about how much Mia looks like another girl, and that just isn’t anything to build a story on. Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo conform to the method of the film. They jump from one emotion to the next, without much connecting one scene to another.
Barcelona: A Love Untold is just oddly constructed all around. There’s just so much to address, and the movie just doesn’t seem willing to do the work to give all these issues the time they need. There is a scene in this movie where a mother and son have a big fight and forgive each other in the same two-minute span. Any one of these stories might be worth telling. Any one of these could have given the romance the narrative substance that it would have required. But the film just doesn’t get to it.