This is a review on, drum roll please...A Very Special Love. I know, I know. The pinoy romantic-comedy blockbuster starring John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo came out in July of last year but in my living room, it continues to get rave reviews. Granted, it's an audience of one (need I say who?), who also happens to be one of those who swoon at the sight of a Biogesic billboard. See, my brothers gave me a copy (original - Suportahan ang Pelikulang Pinoy!) as a Christmas gift, and they'd be happy to know that they got their money's worth - it's been a constant on our DVD player.
Why don't I get sick of watching it? One would think that it is but a typical romance where poor girl meets rich boy, they fall in love, and live happily ever after. But see, the film doesn't dwell on the difference of their social status. What it does is it shows the interaction of two opposing ideas when it comes to love. More on that later. For now, an overview of the film...
AVSL revolves around the characters of and Laida Magtalas, a charming, perpetually optimistic lass who works for Miggy Montenegro, the emotionally-hardened president of a publishing company. Their relationship evolves within the context of producing a make-or-break anniversary issue. The film unfolds and shows how the disparity of their dispositions brings them together, breaks them apart and brings them back together again.
The central character is actually JLC's character, Miggy. In terms of development and back stories, his was the more pronounced. In the film, his cold, unaffected and ruthless demeanor stems from his stigma as an illegitimate child of the Montenegro patriarch. Although his half-brethren recognize him as a Montenegro and he bears the family name, he is burdened by the weight of constantly trying to win their love and respect. In the film, he is portrayed as a heartless superior (earning him the nickname of 'Mondemonyo'), a facade he keeps to hide the pain of his childhood scars. His soft spot is revealed in his visits to his mother's resting place, the only person he feels has loved him unconditionally.
Enter Laida Magtalas, the eternally perky editorial assistant hire who is the epitome of a ray of sunshine. The chance to work for Miggy - her idea of Prince Charming - thrills her no end. She unabashedly displays devotion to her job and to her boss, despite his unappreciative and steely ways.
The stress of producing a pivotal issue of Bachelor Magazine takes its toll on Miggy and when Laida attempts to make a helpful suggestion, he lashes out at her and humiliates her, accusing her of meddling and putting her down for her naivete. Laida is reduced to tears and clams up. In the same scene, a staff member points out to Miggy that it is Laida who has been tirelessly troubleshooting all the production glitches. A glimmer of guilt comes over Miggy - he realizes that he has come down too hard on Laida. He tries to make amends. Laida, however, is crushed and doesn't respond to his reluctant acts of contrition.
The turning point comes when upon delivering an article to Miggy's condo, she finds him bedridden and ill and alone. Seeing him in this sorry state, her compassion gets the better of her. Ronnie Liang's Ngiti plays in the background as she goes about feeding him, cleaning up after he regurgitates, and lulling him to sleep. As she fetches a blanket to place over Miggy's shivering body, she glimpses framed photos of Miggy as a child, in a happy embrace with his mother. In his fevered state, Miggy half-rouses to find Laida by his side, spent from nursing duties, and goes back to sleep with half a smile on his face.
The blossoming romance starts to unfold marked by a mildly inebriated quasi-serenade, a revelation of Miggy's history to Laida and punctuated by a visit to Miggy's mother's grave with Laida in tow. Here we see the positive impact Laida starts to make on Miggy. He becomes less abrasive and becomes a little more pleasant to work with. The blissful interaction hits a speed bump at the magazine's disastrous launch, made even more painful by the presence of the Montenegro clan. Miggy, unable to deal with failing in front of his family, walks out. Laida's efforts to reassure him are met with a pained and angry verbal lashing.
His failed endeavor to make his family proud of him causes him to retreat into his shell - he shuts down the magazine, and shuts out Laida in the process. Laida attempts to get through to him once again and he waves her off, telling her it's no use - she'll wear herself out. He is completely empty with nothing more to give. As she storms off in tears, Miggy is left, feeling utterly miserable.
Miggy goes to his sole refuge - his mother's grave site - and here he breaks down and weeps for all the things he lost - his family's affection, his business, Laida. It is here where he encounters his father and comes to terms with all his emotional wounds and scars. The breakthrough for Miggy comes at this point. His father asks for his forgiveness, tells him that he's proud of him and that he loves Miggy very much.
In the meantime, Laida is heartbroken. However, she is consoled by her family - her source of unconditional love and affection. In the midst of their embrace, she says, "Paano naman ako mauubusan? Eh sa inyo pa lang, punong-puno na."
These two encounters of Laida and Miggy with their families tell us one thing: the world may fall to pieces, but if you have a loving family, all will be all right.
The ball of making things right is now on Miggy's court. He begins by approaching his half-brother (Rowell Santiago), the head of Montenegro Industries. He humbly asks him to take him under his wing. A handshake and a brotherly hug seal the deal - as if to say let bygones be bygones, let's start over.
With Miggy's family issues resolved, one more thing is left to amend - his relationship with Laida. He cooks up an elaborate serenade/apology for Laida. Laida is not moved. Miggy begs her fervently to give him another chance and asks her not to give up on him, he is after all just realizing that love can be unconditional, that he is a work in progress. Laida finally lets her guard down and takes him back with open arms.
Thus ends the film, with the happy couple, laughing and hugging in the rain...
Baduy lang, they didn't kiss...what's a love story without a good snog?
Anyway. Now, my thoughts.
It was well-written, well-cast, well-played out. Raz Sobida Dela Torre captured real-life conversations and expressions and translated them into a witty and believable screenplay.Of course, it wouldn't be a Pinoy movie without the slightly poetic discourse and confrontations, and these are written with such finesse that I wish people really said them in real life.
Miggy (to a tearful Laida) : Maawa ka nga sa sarili mo. Itigil mo na yan. Mapapagod ka lang. Mapapagod ka lang maghintay. Mapapagod ka lang umasang mamahalin ka.
Laida : Kahit minsan, hindi ko naramdamang nakakapagod kang mahalin...Ngayon lang.
O diba? Lupet.
The supporting characters did splendidly. My personal favorites were Matet de Leon and Gio Alvarez who played the roles of Laida's colleagues. I also liked Rowell Santiago in the role of Miggy's older half-brother.
Like I said earlier, this is more than your typical boy-meets-girl story. The thing about watching a film over and over is that you get to peel the layers and retrieve insights that you would not have otherwise been apparent on the initial viewing.
I was figuring out at how Miggy's attraction to Laida evolved. Throughout the movie, Laida displays efficiency and industriousness in her job - impressive qualities to a boss - as well as a pleasant vibe and motherly concern for her colleagues, which is another plus. Miggy observes all these and his expression shows that he is mildly baffled? puzzled? at this upbeat creature who leaves post-it notes with encouraging messages on his coffee cup. It could be that he was intrigued and drawn to Laida's generosity of spirit and compassion - so very different from the emotional stinginess he's accustomed to. Somehow, Laida's persistent goodness managed to tug at his creaky heartstrings.
Beneath the snappy storytelling and screenplay, beneath the enviable chemistry between Laida and Miggy, I saw this: inside of us resides a Miggy and a Laida. The Miggy in us is that part which is hungry for affection but unwilling to open up for fear of getting hurt. It's that part which has been battered and bruised by past experiences and defends itself from pain by closing up and not letting anyone in. The Laida in us is that part which is optimistic and giving, the part which has a capacity to love beyond flaws and undesirable circumstances.
When it comes to loving, the Laida and the Miggy in us are constantly grappling and struggling. We are constantly wrestling between giving and holding back, between believing in goodness and being skeptical, between self-worth and self-pity, between forgiveness and holding a grudge. The question is, who prevails?
Call me idealistic, but I believe that our inner Laidas should come through when it comes to loving. There's more than enough love to go around, why be stingy with it?