Never Not Love You: Film Review

never-not-love-youAs much as I would want to review Never Not Love You spoiler free, I apologize in advance because as early as now, I want to warn you that I can’t do it. So, if you want to see the movie and come back later to see if we share the same opinions, please feel free to do so. For the meantime, you can skip to the last paragraph just to see if I enjoyed the movie. Promise, it won’t spoil you.

Synopsis: Gio (James Reid) is a freelance graphic artist and part-time tattoo artist whose goal in life is to be happy and see where life takes him. Joanne (Nadine Lustre) is a driven marketing assistant who dreams of being promoted and giving her family a good life. These two polar opposite characters fall in love and meet the challenges of growing up while holding on to their relationship.

First off, let me just say for the record that Antoinette Jadaone is one of the most talented writers in the business today. And Never Not Love You, consistent with her previous works strips the fluff away from the concept of true love and portrays relationships as the complicated and fragile things that they are. So if you’re expecting the typical kilig Jadine movie, you might find yourself disappointed because except for the ligawan stage, the movie switches gears faster than you can say yihiii!

This is not to say that the movie did not deliver on its promises.  It surpassed expectations, even.

Never Not Love You was really a great comeback for James Reid and Nadine Lustre. The past year was all about music and art for this reel and real couple but I’m happy to see that the skills they developed from doing two soaps (On the Wings of Love, Til I Met You) are still very much alive even despite the long hiatus from acting.

While before, James and Nadine had excellent chemistry, this time around, there was a level of comfort and intimacy in their portrayal that came from a deep trust and familiarity with one another. There were times where I felt like I wanted to strangle Gio because of his immaturity, but there were moments where I also felt his vulnerability when he wore his heart on his sleeve. As for Joanne, I really felt her anguish and her unhappiness over her plight in London as she made the choice to give up her career for love.  I’m sure there are a lot of people who would be able to relate to her character. There was no heavy breakdown scenes needed but James and Nadine’s subtle nuances were able to speak volumes about how their characters were feeling.

Storywise, I felt like the movie was pretty solid until the London arc but it unraveled when Joanne returned to Manila to restart her career. At this point, I believed that the story could have benefitted from some additional scenes to emphasize the growing gap between the two characters. The outburst from Gio (while well executed by James) just came out of nowhere and felt really awakward in the timeline.

It felt as though the film was going through the motions by injecting the typical issues experienced by long-distance couples just to justify the less than typical ending that Jadaone planned for the movie. I felt that if the deterioration of the relationship became more gradual, then the ending could have made much more sense.

Don’t get me wrong. I get that not all movies should deliver the happily ever after in a platter. And I actually applaud Jadaone’s brilliant use of parallels to emphasize the difference of the relationship in its earlier stages and how it came to be towards the end. Would Gio and Joanne’s relationship survive their evolution? Would it survive the issues that they never threshed out and dismissed with simple I love yous? Is love enough to bridge the gap brought on by distance? Come to think of it, I shouldn’t even be surprised by how Jadaone plotted this film. These issues were similar to the conflicts she had presented in OTWOL and TIMY, but I think this was the vision she had that did not meet primetime requirements. Also, I felt like it was more of an attempt to be different rather than sensible for the trajectory of the story, but that’s just me.

Never Not Love You is not your typical love story.  It had imperfect characters who loved deeply and fully and who may not have made choices that made a lot of sense. But it was a movie that made audiences evaluate their own relationships. It was a movie that showed a lot of heart. A lot can be learned from Gio and Joanne and in creating characters that build a strong connection with the audience, the filmmakers were able to develop a strong core for the movie that it managed to build on with all the other elements of the film.

All in all, Never Not Love You is spot on. It took a risk in veering away from the typical formula of previous Jadine movies but it was a risk that paid off. From the great script, to the musical score that emphasized every phase of the relationship, to the cinematography that made viewers appreciate the beauty of London and Makati at night, to the effective portrayal of James and Nadine which made up 80 percent of the movie. Despite all the rumors and issues that led up to the release of the film, it all came together as one of Jadine and Jadaone’s best collaborations yet. Would I recommend you to watch it? Most definitely.  I would even recommend for you to see it twice just so you could process the issues tackled in the film with much more fervor.

PS. Its a shame that some scenes featured in the trailer did not make it to the final cut 😦