Saturday, October 20, 2018

First Love

Finding success in Vancouver after two decades of trying different occupations, risk analyst Nick (Aga Muhlach) decides to liquidate all of his shares at his company so he can leave them to Simon (Edward Barber). Optimist Ali (Bea Alonzo) works at a bookstore where she also sells her own postcards. She wants to be a nature photographer, but her ailment makes her wary of thinking about long-term goals. Even so, she is still hopeful that she will eventually find a compatible heart donor one day. Fate brings them together, leading them to meet and get to know one another better. But in a love story where the risk of losing one another is at an all-time high, would it be wise to bet and invest?

The moment Ali mentions that she is in need of a heart and Nick comes in and bumps into her at the bookshop, we all go uh-oh because this kind of story has already been told way too many times before, and we all know how they end. And so you spend the next hour or two wondering if First Love will actually go there. The good news is that the film has many poignant and beautiful distractions that make the emotional trip worth the ride. Given the stellar performance of both actors, we can afford to be forgiving.

I can’t tell if there is something wrong with the cinematography or if everything is intentional to reflect the mindset of one of the characters. The shots all seem muted and gray even on a bright sunny day. Or perhaps the weather is to blame? It looks like most of the scenes were shot at the tail end of winter The subdued texture creates some sort of depressing vibe, an eerie silence as if setting the mood for heartbreak later on. Whatever the intention is, this aspect affects your viewing experience somehow.

Such mood also makes you feel as though you’re watching an indie movie. Maybe that’s why it feels so refreshing? Alonzo always stars in heavy drama love stories that are formulaic at best, mostly helmed by the same director. This is perhaps the closest she could get to an indie flick. This is also her second film this year but unlike her second quarter offering, First Love does her a favor by giving her a material that is relatively fresh for her. The wig does not look horrible and jives with her face perfectly. It also lends a jovial vibe to the character, which is a good way of showing contrast between the two leads.

This seems to be the default setup now when it comes to Muhlach’s movie project. He is always paired with a younger woman. The difference this time is that the character seems closer to him in terms of profile. There really is no need for him to adjust and make himself seem younger than he is. It’s good to see a man in his 40’s get his love story told. Hey, not all of us are screaming fan girls of millennial actors half our age, and they don’t have a monopoly of romance. As always, Muhlach does not disappoint and proves that he still has the acting chops. Now can we request for that long overdue reunion movie with Lea Salonga, please? It’s been ages since Sana Maulit Muli and we’re still waiting for a follow-up.

Together, Muhlach and Alonzo form a solid team that does not rely much on mush alone. Maybe we can thank the main premise for it, that of two people finding solace with one another amidst the fatal threats their lives have to offer. There is something alluring when it comes to narratives that dangle the reality of your mortality right in front of your face. At the end of the day, that is still the ultimate life changer, right? First Love tends to beat around the bush and has the propensity to imply instead of spoon-feeding. That makes you epiphany about life and death much more cathartic, and for that this film succeeds.

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