By Gio Potes “Happy ka?” “Sa script ko? Yes!” “Sa script… o sa buhay mo?” Life imitates art and vice versa. And in the most recent MMFF, WALANG FOREVER is the filmmaker’s somewhat delightful reflection on art imitating life – in local terms, “hugot”. Dan Villegas’ latest addition to the growing “hugot movie” (the local romcom subgenre that usually means Antoinette Jadaone has something to do with it), WALANG FOREVER is quite an uneven crowd-pleaser. Like last year’s ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE, the film delivers the goods of a mature romantic comedy, but it also falls on the romcom conventions it is most likely aware of. After a montage that echoes WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, we are introduced to the beginning and ending of a relationship – that of Mia and Ethan (played by Jennylyn Mercado and Jericho Rosales). Ethan is a game designer while Mia is a romantic comedy screenwriter, and their romantic encounters became the primary source (or the “hugot”) for her string of successful movies. The present story kicks off in the reunion of the two, just in time when Mia needed new inspiration and Ethan has a few shocking revelations. The better aspects of the film can be attributed to the supporting cast who can only do so much to provide substance and depth, like the ensemble of friends for comic relief. The film’s matriarchs were notable, with Lorna Tolentino’s cool mom in the lighter moments, and Rustica Carpio and Irma Adlawan in short poignant scenes of heavy melodrama. Expect a few broken heartstrings in the latter two’s final exchange with Rosales. In fact, Jericho Rosales as Ethan anchors WALANG FOREVER, in his well-timed sarcasm to his brooding dramatic turns. It seems he’s the more committed player in the film as a handful of his scenes mark as effective romcom flair, and yet his performance cannot save WALANG FOREVER from its tiresome clichés. The flawed sound and lighting are probably no important feats in the local romcom, so let’s focus on the story and performances. While the first half may have left us with something bittersweet to hope for, Villegas muddles on an awkward transition and a disconnected pair of leads. Jennylyn Mercado masquerades as the screenwriter equivalent of Jadaone and her wooden, uncommitted performance is a disappointment after her spirited turn in last year’s ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE. And come the awkward drama towards the last act, you’d wish Villegas just stuck with his lightweight touches. One cannot help but cringe at the supposedly dramatic climax when a friend’s suddenly heavy concern for Mia explodes all over the place. Of course, the signature “hugot” and “kilig” scenes are delivered, and sometimes they’re even effective in their bittersweet delivery. WALANG FOREVER also managed to show that there are bigger problems other than its troublesome relationship, and that could’ve added a little more weight to the story only if the film didn’t go on emphasizing that it is all about “hugot” and nothing more – of how a writer only returns to real life so she can recharge her juices for a new movie. While some of the romantic scenes work, WALANG FOREVER doesn’t stick. It could’ve been as mature and refreshing as its creators’ previous efforts, it can even go beyond the romantic comedy conventions it ridicules but undoubtedly traps itself in. Yet it chose to halt at the shallow “hugot” and “kilig” that it ends as a tired, flash-in-the-pan romance. The funny minor character Sasha can sum it up in one of the better lines from the film: “Nanunuod akong romcom. Feel good lang” Credits to the images and videos used in this post go to “#Walang Forever” and/or to their respective owners. I do not own these materials. No copyright infringement intended.