Ely (Daniel Padilla) moves to Barcelona to become an architect, a promise he made to his ex-flame Celine that he wants to fulfill. Mia (Kathryn Bernardo) is in Spain not out of financial necessity, but rather to prove to everyone that she is still worth something, especially to her demanding father. When they cross paths on the metro, her striking resemblance to his ex immediately catches his attention. As their chance encounters begin to multiply, she gets annoyed thinking that he’s stalking her, until a certain incident proves otherwise. Now with a debt of gratitude to pay, her dependence on him starts to grow, first out of practicality, and eventually to that of infatuation. But she will realize soon enough that it’s hard to compete with ghosts from the past, especially those that just won’t die.
Olivia Lamasan’s films are all the same, or at least most of them. The formula is usually that of two lost souls reluctant to take a chance on each other because they come with tons of emotional baggage from a previous relationship. But fate is really tricky and circumstance forces them to meet somewhere outside the country, somewhere picturesque and postcard perfect, like Barcelona. Tokyo. Milan. Don’t get me wrong, though, setting it abroad is not really a bad thing because it adds a beautiful distraction once the storyline becomes too dragging for comfort. You never go wrong with Barcelona, there’s just too many to see.
You don’t have to veer away from Lamasan’s filmography to see where all of this is going. In effect, this is a millennial version of 2004’s Milan, which was awesome, by the way. Milan, not Barcelona. The movies, not the cities! Barcelona: A Love Untold feels more like a vehicle to force Padilla and Bernardo out of their teenybopper shells, because everyone has to mature at some point, right? A different storyline could have accomplished that, although you must also think about the movie’s primary target audience.
This tandem’s fans are really young high school students who might have, or have not, seen any other Olivia Lamasan film, which means there simply is no point of reference. To them, this is innovative and original, and perhaps there is nothing wrong with that. Every generation has its own definitive film of this genre, right? There was Sana Maulit Muli in the 90’s. Milan a decade ago. Let’s just give these millennials their very own version, shall we? If I were that young, I probably would have had a less scathing opinion.
Maybe the real problem is the generation gap? If you have seen the trailer, then you would have heard the rather artificial lines that wouldn’t come out of a millennial’s mouth in everyday life. And because the teaser is full of such manufactured dialogue, you’d end up thinking that the entire movie will be that way. Fortunately, it isn’t. Besides, Star Cinema has a bad track record when it comes to making effective trailers.
Even so, the issue lingers. Do these millennials really have what it takes to deal with what the generations that came before them had to in a foreign land, when the norm is just to stay put in Manila and survive by working in the BPO industry? That would have been a more believable setting. But where’s the fun in that? Surely, either Makati or BGC is no Barcelona, and this film just needs that European side trip to make it more tolerable and interesting.
Acting-wise, Padilla and Bernardo are not that bad. What’s wrong with this picture is that their mother network seems to be rushing their transition from teen stars to mature actors. If they can still sell their loveteam with the typical teenybopper fodder they are being given for the last few years, then let them continue doing so. Let it simmer. The market will dictate whether they want something new and when, anyway. For now, just enjoy what Catalunya has to offer.