By Redentor Lagrimas Lebantino
There may be spoilers.
Star Cinema’s Labyu with an Accent immediately shows promise as soon as Jodi Sta. Maria and Coco Martin appear on screen, the two superstars effortlessly exuding strong cinematic presence.
Tricia (Sta. Maria), daughter of a Filipino business tycoon in the US, calls off her wedding after catching her fiancé with another woman in a bath tub. Following her heartbreak, she flies to the Philippines and meets Gabo (Martin), a macho dancer and co-owner of an escort service business which offers a ‘boyfriend’ experience to lonely gays and women. Tricia avails of Gabo’s services and gets smitten by his charm.
Romcom on 1st act
The first act delivers the delight expected of a romcom which happens to be a familiar territory for Sta. Maria (famous as Maya in the hit TV series Be Careful with my Heart and lead actress in the films All You Need is Pag-ibig and Achy Breaky Hearts), complementing Martin’s own comedic style. With palpable chemistry on screen, Martin and Sta. Maria easily endear themselves to a packed theater audience.
Drastic change in tone
The film’s tone drastically changes in the second and third acts, though. When Tricia has to fly back to the States to fulfill business and family obligations, it looks like a totally-different film. The problem is not it getting serious or dramatic, but Tricia and Gabo seem to have transformed into lovers who lost grasp of their non-simplistic reality. Then the film suddenly turns into a depiction of Gabo as a lover and an OFW, except that he is not much stirred by the travails of being the latter.
Character transformation fails
When Tricia abandons her privilege to be with Gabo who could only hustle with menial jobs given his mere tourist visa, the film utilizes a man’s ego to push for drama and make the woman bear the weight that does not only burden relationships in real life but drags down the film itself. How many times do we need to bear with a male character of this kind—born from the need for melodrama, even if the behavior is hardly merited, and the actions result from a hardly-motivated desire to prove his worth at the expense of a female character who is aways written to remain at the receiving end?
Gabo’s dose of reality only finds him in self-pity, which subsequently brings him back to the Philippines. We know it will happen: Gabo returning to his roots, his place of comfort. In films we have always seen, the man always finds his home.
In Labyu with an Accent and other Star Cinema romcoms, the woman follows and wins back her man. It’s she who needs to understand more because she is a woman. It’s she who should be unperturbed by what she leaves behind for her man. It has not felt right rooting for this kind of affair for the longest time, especially when viewers continue to think that such dynamics is nice, cute, and worst, just.
‘Labyu with an Accent’ is showing in cinemas nationwide.
banner photo: screenshot of Labyu With An Accent official trailer from StarCinema’s Youtube Channel