Caption: The powerhouse cast of I Love You Goodbye is composed of (from left) Gabby Concepcion, Angelica Panganiba, Derek Ramsay and Kim Chiu.
Text by Julia Allende
I was not surprised by the reception to I Love You, Goodbye, Star Cinema’s official entry to the 2009 Metro Manila Film Festival. It boasts of a powerhouse cast after all, and a fool-proof storyline. And everybody loves a love story.
But like the old women who kept feigning shock at the steamy love scenes but were obviously delighted by it, I also have mixed feeling about this stunner.
It was, after all, a near-perfect movie experience. I remember hugging the big popcorn bucket with one hand, pressing a scarf to my nose with the other, eyes brimming with tears.
More than the climax, I was nervous for the movie.
There were maybe 15 minutes left to it and I deeply wished it would not be ruined in its final minutes by a cliché or a deus ex machina type of resolution. Ten minutes to the ending, it was still as interesting as when it started until it hit a HUH? moment. And another one.
By this country’s strict Catholic standards, I Love You, Goodbye is a brave thesis on the ravages of love, both visually and story-wise. It’s just a pity that our prudish standards almost always put pressure to create a pleasant ending for a beautifully painful story.
It is, after all, a movie shown on Christmas Day. There must be hope and forgiveness in the end. It’s an unwritten rule.
I Love You, Goodbye, directed by veteran director Laurice Guillen, stars Gabby Concepcion, Angelica Panganiban, Derek Ramsay, and Kim Chiu.
Angelica plays the role of Lizelle, a woman who dreams of a simple life: a house, a husband, a family. She almost has the whole package except her lover’s marriage annulment process is crawling and his mother thinks she’s a gold digger. Despite her efforts, she has difficulty fitting in the high-flying world of Adrian (Gabby Concepcion), a cardiologist. Even if his ex-wife Valerie (Angel Aquino) is gracious to her, his teenage daughter Ysa (Kim Chiu) despises her.
Her happy, if difficult life with Adrian is thrown off balance when Ysa introduces Garry (Derek Ramsay), a freelance photographer she’s dating. From that day on, Lizelle wrestles with her past and the feelings that are resurfacing. She must make a choice and live with the consequences.
I Love You, Goodbye presents a familiar storyline but Direk Laurice made it lush by making curious turns and accentuating the little details.
In a scene where Lizelle storms out of the condominium she shares with Adrian, she stuffs her new clothes in her old, cheap canvass bag, signifiying that she pines away for her old socially-uncomplicated life but at the same time, undecided if she is ready to throw away the life she has with him.
This is especially true in the tender love scenes.
In a flashback, Garry and Lizelle share a passionate embrace in their dingy rented apartment, Lizelle tracing the muscles on Gary’s back with slightly trembling fingers, Gary’s hand gliding on her milky thighs.
When Adrian and Lizelle returned from a party, Adrian unfurls her hair, making it tumble down her shoulders. He kisses her face and she gives him soft baby kisses in return.
In the hands of Direk Laurice, love is consuming, desperate, humbling and devoid of man-woman strife.
Angelica Panganiban is perhaps the only actress in this generation who can have four love scenes in a movie without seeming–ahem–vulgar and distractive to the mood of the film.
I credit it to her angelic good looks and womanly curves, a combination that makes men look twice and leaves women confused.
Angelica skillfully captured the essence of Lizelle’s complex character: a woman scared by economic hardship and the ravages of desperate young love, but whose beauty and inate ability to love tenaciously saved her, and at the same time, threatened to destroy everything she’s building for her relationship.
Angelica created a Lizelle is all at once delicate but passionate, nervous but determined, transparent but resilient. It was brilliant. I doubt if I Love You, Goodbye will fly if another actress was cast in her place.
Kim Chiu also held her own as Gabby’s rebellious daughter. For a change, she is vicious, and effectively so. At the same time, she is lost and insecure. It was an interesting role compared to the girl-next-door and damsel in distress that we are so accustomed to seeing her portray.
Derek’s Gary too, is a formidable rival for Lizelle’s affection. Rough and intensely masculine, as well as desperate, he provides the sexual element of the film.
Direk Laurice should be credited for her excellent character development because under her direction, Lizelle, Gary, Adrian, and Ysa are three dimensional people who actually move in the grey areas of human emotion. I hope this signals a transition in character development in Filipino films.
As a whole, the movie has an interesting plot that it sustained to almost cathartic level until the last 15 minutes or so of the film when the conflict was instantly solved, sadly, with cliche.
The trouble with a rich plot, perhaps, is when it becomes too convoluted; it becomes harder to get out of.
We just cannot stop killing characters with randomly passing cars that seem heaven sent to create an ending to it at last.
Again, I remind myself that this is a movie for the Yuletide season. It is morally mandatory to give the audience the good feeling at the end. There must be forgiveness. Everything has to be fine in the end. Even at the last minute.
Now I only wish it were like that in real life.
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