It is easy to dismiss Para Sa Hopeless Romantic as just another film about love. In a market drowning in romances of whatever shape and size, the dismissal of Ranay’s film is warranted. However, while it’s just right to dismiss Para sa Hopeless Romantic given that there will be more to follow, it isn’t exactly accurate to declare it as entirely worthless.
The film is a streamlined version of Marcelo Santos III’s book of the same title. Instead of tackling five interrelated love stories, director Ranay and screenwriter Mel Mendoza-Del Rosario put the focus on two: Becca (Nadine Lustre) and Nikko (James Reid) and the one between Maria (Julia Barretto) and Ryan (Inigo Pascual), which exists inside Becca’s brokenhearted imagination.
The result is less needlessly complicated. Para sa Hopeless Romantic does not try too hard to step out of the formula, which is completely fine considering it does not have much to say about love except that it is best experienced when coupled with a tolerable amount of ache and resolvable conflicts.
It’s all been done before. Ranay knows it, which is why he surrenders fully to the process and comes up with something decent, harmless, and at times, authentically perceptive.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Para sa Hopeless Romantic is how it feels defiantly anchored in reality. While the rest of romantic comedies seem to be situated in an alternate Philippines where everything is glittered and glossy, giving them all their well-to-do characters reasons to be concerned with love instead of other more pressing things, Ranay’s film is set in a world that is more familiar and more palpable.
Becca’s a working student, juggling academic requirements while serving customers of a popular burger joint. She goes home to a family whose financial woes are only masked by the fact that they have boxing matches and each other’s company to offer some sort of happiness.
In other words, her romance with Nikko is not just some weightless fluff. It is genuine escape, the way young love should really be.
Lustre makes her character’s seemingly unimportant struggle moving. She laments not being able to move on, to the point of creating grim stories about the futility of love. She weeps with utmost determination and sincerity, and giggles with glee when presented with an opportunity of finding a brand new romance through ridiculous conversations via chair-bound graffiti.
Para sa Hopeless Romantic is littered with little pleasures that elevate the all-too-ordinary love story into something more worthwhile. Cherie Gil’s impersonation of an uptight professor who’d rather be fighting off a colleague in court rather than teaching students the basics of partnership is spot-on. Teresa Loyzaga’s turn as the delicately affectionate mother of Becca is beautiful.
However, it is still quite apparent that the film is a Viva product, with a lot of sequences ruined by being plastered with the latest songs of the movie outfit’s recording arm. Ranay evidently struggles to keep a steady pace, unable to determine if he’d rather have a film that wallows in heart-to-heart conversations or just have a lot of the film’s emotions be telegraphed by grating pop songs.
Para sa Hopeless Romantic manages to make statements as well. In the film’s climactic scene, Ranay has Becca and Nikko resolve differences in the middle of a school rally, giving off a certain impression about how something as flimsy as romance has the power to eclipse issues as pressing as the ones the students of the university are fighting for.
This is essentially the reason for existence of all these love stories and romantic comedies the country has become curelessly addicted to. It pulls us away from what is truly important. Thus, even if Becca has other problems to solve, Nikko is still her center of gravity. No rally will stop her to have her stab at true love.
At the end of the day and after everything has been said and done, Ranay somewhat succeeds in doing what is expected from him. He carves a seemingly uncomplicated romance out of a book that overcomplicates youthful love, and in so doing, proves that this country is romantic precisely because it is hopeless. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios