My Only U has some pretty interesting bits in it, and carried on the back of its charismatic leading man, Vhong Navarro, there are scenes in it that shine. If you step back and look at the thing as a whole, however, things start to look a lot more familiar. Though there are traces of inspiration here and there, the film suffers from its story being wrung through the mass market machine a few too many times, and some sloppy filmmaking knocks it down another rung.
Winona’s family has never had a girl live past the age of twenty-five, and so, she’s always been resigned to her fate. She’s always turned away suitors, devoting her life to make money to help her blind father after she’s gone. She lives in a tenement run by Bong, who’s always been in love with her, but has never had the courage to say anything. When her twenty-fifth birthday comes and she survives, she starts considering the possibility of a long life together with Bong. But Bong discovers through some ghostly intervention that Winona has Lupus, and that she doesn’t have that long to live. He decides to hide the truth from Winona and try to extend her life by keeping her safe. But things get complicated when Winona decides that she wants to perform in Japan, putting her out of reach from Bong’s protection.
The story has some clever bits in it. It benefits from a more out-there sensibility, where the romantic comedy contrivances don’t get in the way of the story. Perhaps it’s easier to accept how convenient things are when there are ghosts hanging around. There are things that are still difficult to overlook, however. The script has a tendency to replace character moments with production numbers. The characters aren’t really all that developed. Sometimes it feels like they’re pulling dramatic moments out of nowhere. And the ending is a real copout, belying the genuine sweetness that they built in crafting the tragedy of these two characters. The genre’s demand for easy, happier endings takes away from the strong drama that the movie already had. A couple of silly inside jokes will charm those in the know, but will probably just annoy people who don’t care about such things. Also, do we really need more ngongo jokes? That material has been done to death, but it feels like we still have two or three movies a year that fall back on making a character ngongo for cheap laughs.
Cathy Garcia-Molina has a pretty good grasp of what works on screen, though the filmmaking here feels a little sloppy. There’s a couple of glaring continuity errors that would be unforgivable even in a college film. The post-production in general comes off as a little rushed, with odd jumps that that shouldn’t be in there and really unpolished special effects. But as with most romantic comedies, the production comes secondary to the main players, and most of what will determine the “quality” is in their pairing. Vhong Navarro is just completely underappreciated as a dramatic talent. His mostly deadpan approach to comedy is pretty great, but one ought to notice how well he does in emotional scenes. Unlike most actors, Navarro is smart enough to hold back, never overwhelming his scenes with any histrionics. Toni Gonzaga, on the other hand, goes the other route and cries at every possible moment. Gonzaga’s enthusiasm is still endearing, but there comes a point in the movie where her tears seem too much, and they stop being effective. It starts to feel empty, as if the tears were called on simply for the sake of having tears, instead of being a natural effect of the scene. The rest of the cast is mostly there to fill in the broad comedy positions, slapping each other or speaking in funny ways. Nothing to note there, really, other than it’s great to see Dennis Padilla.
In the end, My Only U still can’t overcome its weaknesses, suffering from the same flaws that plague this genre of movies. The story is still contrived. The ending is a copout that squanders all the emotional depth they built on the way there. And the production still feels subpar, despite the resources behind everything. I do believe that Vhong Navarro is a worthy leading man, and should be getting far more attention than he currently gets. Give him something meatier to chew on, and I’m sure he’ll deliver.