In the opening narration of Imagine You & Me, the main character Gara (Maine Mendoza) explains that she believes everything happens for a reason. She believes in fate and romance in spite of having absolutely no luck in that department. She heads off to Italy, where she does various odd jobs. While out one day, she sees a guy get his bag stolen. She runs after the thief with him, and manages to get the bag back. She looks through the contents, and tracks down the owner. The bag belongs to Andrew (Alden Richards), a heartbroken young man who has given up on romance.
Coincidentally, Andrew is the stepson of someone Gara works for. The two meet, and they immediately butt heads. Mistakenly believing that Andrew is suicidal, Gara inserts herself into his affairs, following him around as he tries to get over the girl that broke his heart. The two end up spending time together, and despite their opposing views on love and romance, they start to grow on each other. But of course, things aren't that simple. There are a few other coincidences that complicate matters for the two of them. What the film plays as fate and destiny is really just contrivance, a bunch of developments designed to fulfill the imagined requirements of a local mainstream romantic comedy.
The movie is best when it's just trying to be cute. It plays on the history of its two stars, and ends up taking advantage of their individual strengths. So there is some lip-syncing, and a couple of early sequences that keep the two in proximity, but never quite together. There's a pretty good one-take sequence that cleverly dances around keeping the two separate. While it doesn't really translate into truly compelling cinema, it does at the very least feel natural for the stars. It recaptures some of the magic the two shared in those early days of their pairing, which isn't a bad thing at all. It's bubbly and kind of fun, even though the dialogue can feel forced and stilted.
But then the film doesn't stay cute. It makes a ridiculously attempt at melodrama that just doesn't fit with the rest of the story. Like so many lazy local movies, it involves a terminal illness, an accident, and people generally making a bigger deal out of small issues. The drama invariably comes from the main character sticking her nose in other people's business. Gara is told repeatedly and justifiably that she has no right to decide what's best for other people. But she does it anyway, and the film presents these actions as something that ultimately comes from a good heart. But it just doesn't feel that way.
The production values are solid all the way through. The film does take advantage of its foreign setting, showcasing a lot of pretty scenery along the way. Maine Mendoza is still clearly more comfortable with comedy than drama, though one must give her credit for trying. This film peppers in the drama haphazardly at best, and the actress isn't quite prepared to handle the rapid shifts in tone. Alden Richards plays everything like a veteran of TV, which is to say that everything is always a little too broad for the big screen. The supporting cast hardly factors into proceedings, despite the solid performers contained within.
The truth is, Imagine You & Me doesn't care about the drama. It's an obligation at best, because these mainstream movies are supposed to have everything in them. But the drama is completely extraneous to the story. At the very end, the film barrels on as if nothing happened; jumping ahead to a future where the characters don't even have to think about the terrible trials they went through. Without any real investment in narrative gravity, the film would have likely been better off staying cute, leaving all the terminal illnesses to the movies that actually want to do those stories.
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