Almost everybody has his or her own breakup experience. It can be caused by so many different things – distance, arguments, or incompatibility – but the most intriguing reason is most definitely infidelity. It’s interesting to explore the psyche of people who feel the need to divert their attention to someone else. And it tickles the Filipino’s fancy, as proven by the myriad of shows in TV and film that explore this situation. From this discourse comes Star Cinema’s The Love Affair.
The movie introduces us to Vince (Richard Gomez) and Trisha (Dawn Zulueta), whose marriage of 24 years is on the verge of collapse. Vince discovering Trisha’s affair with his best friend made matters a lot worse. He resorts to sailing as an escape from his married life, where he develops an affair with Adie (Bea Alonzo), a lawyer who has also recently gone through some heartaches of her own.
Although suffering a bit from the trappings of melodrama at times, the movie is actually a carefully executed and paced character study of people involved in a deteriorating marriage. It exposes the perspectives of all three characters – where they’re coming from, what drives them, what pushed them to make the decisions they made, and how they ended up the way they were when the movie opened. Characters are introduced or highlighted at just the right time in the plot, and I feel no scene is placed in without purpose.
In this movie, nothing is what it initially seems. What I’m most impressed by is that there are some crafty whodunit moments when the same sequences are seen through the perspectives of different characters, adding diverging bits of information that help the viewers understand individual motivations. There are no stuck-up evil bitches here – the movie does a fabulous job painting the leads as rounded, full-fleshed, real people. This enables the audience to identify with all three leads in a way no other similar movie (e.g., A Secret Affair, No Other Woman, etc.) has ever done before. Even Vince, with all his faults and insecurities, comes out as a sympathetic, rootable character. You just want the best for all of them, regardless of which side you’re on.
Richard, Dawn, and Bea are great actors no doubt, and they deliver their parts so well. Richard benefits from his charismatic onscreen presence, which is important to establish how enigmatic Vince is. Dawn doesn’t get to do much at the start of the movie, but she shines at the later half, when Trisha discovers Vince’s infidelity. Dawn perfectly portrays her character’s guilt, frustration, regret, helplessness, and hope – sometimes in one scene, sometimes in just one look. The chemistry of CharDawn is off the roof, but since the movie shows them mostly in disagreement, don’t expect too many kilig moments.
But the MVP of this movie is definitely, hands down, Bea Alonzo. Flawless. That’s all I could say. From her earlier scenes with Tom Rodriguez, to her final scenes with Dawn and Richard, she has made Abie’s journey compelling, authentic, and heartfelt. Her Abie is strong on the outside but weak, needy, and scared in the inside, and when circumstances force the inside to come out, she brings so much emotion to the front. I don’t think I praised a local actor this much, but she deserves all of it.
When the movie ends and you get out of the cinema, you’ll feel as though you’ve sailed through (pun intended) the lives of three characters you end up caring for. Casting in the movie already gives away who ends up with whom, but the journey to get there is a ride worth taking. I highly recommend watching A Love Affair, and here’s to hoping we see more of these mature, sensible, well-written movies in the mainstream.
Stray observations (SPOILER ALERT! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!)
- Grab Taxi ad, check! SMB ad, check! Apple ad, check! Why isn’t there a Nescafe or Selecta ad thrown in?
- How did Adie’s Pajero not take in real damage and end up being drivable immediately after the crash? Movie magic!
- How the movie handled Ryan’s (Tom Rodriguez) infidelity is quite commendable. He wasn’t exactly demonized and you also get to a certain degree understand why he did what he did.
- To those who don’t get it, sailing is a metaphor for life. You sail alone, you can course through life alone. You enjoy sailing, you enjoy life. You get the point.
- What’s with the ice cream and coffee combo? Is this really a thing? If so, how do you eat it? Pour coffee over ice cream?
- The dead child at the hospital was obviously breathing – it kind of takes you out of the moment.
- One costume design observation: Dawn usually wears white but wears black during her confrontation with Bea. I might be overthinking this, but I feel this was done on purpose to highlight that it isn’t in Dawn’s character to be confrontational.
- “You broke him,” with kasamang nginig ng lips. This will probably be parodied to death.
- The old couple feeding ice cream to each other ended up looking too funny. If I were Vince I would laugh at their cheesiness.
- I know it’s cliché when a couple stays together because of the children, but it somehow works in this movie.
Director: Ruel C. Naval
With: Richard Gomez, Dawn Zulueta, Bea Alonzo