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‘The Hows of Us’ review: Safe but sound

‘The Hows of Us’ review: Safe but sound thumbnail

There is enough sparkle in ‘The Hows of Us’ to wade over its unconvincing passages

The best and probably the truest part of Cathy Garcia-Molina’s The Hows of Us happens near the beginning.

George (Kathryn Bernardo) and Primo (Daniel Padilla), once competitors in a debate contest, eventually fall in love. George claims she adores Primo’s ambition and how he wants to make his OPM band internationally famous someday. It is when George and Primo move into the house they inherited from George’s relative (Susan Africa) that things start to get more complicated. George, who is studying for medical school, becomes the breadwinner for the household as Primo struggles to get the big break. The love story turns sour, and the two lovers eventually become ugly representations of everything that is wrong with Filipino rom-com stereotypes, with George being the ever-enduring female to Primo, who is chronically irresponsible but irresistibly charming.

In a way, the movie unflinchingly showcases the very dark side of loving immensely.

With a narrated prologue that doesn’t last more than 30 minutes to tell the story of how George and Primo ended up in the opening situation where they reunite in unfriendly terms, Garcia-Molina managed to weave a romance that delightfully blossoms from misunderstanding before abruptly ending in tearful separation. The sequence is brisk but thorough in its exposition of how love can go extremely wrong when one of its participants is abusive and the other is irrationally devoted. It hits all the right notes. In fact, the film could have ended there and it would have been a compelling exercise of turning all the rom-com tropes that have typically been glossed over as quirks into the same elements that would result in the most justified of heartbreaks.

The sequence also features what is probably Padilla and Bernardo’s best performances.

Padilla, who often makes his mark when he makes use of the suave charisma popularized by his uncle Robin Padilla to cutely veil what would be his trademark haughtiness, unusually shines during the moments wherein he is quiet and restrained. His performance here is less about his typical masculine swagger and more about how he can rein in his mannerisms to reveal himself as a sensitive and intelligent actor. Bernardo plays the long-suffering girlfriend with enough earnestness to render the inherent naiveté of her character as initially endearing, making the heartache she would later encounter quite affecting. (READ: Watch out for a ‘older, more mature’ KathNiel in ‘The Hows of Us ‘)

Rickety efforts

The gushing unfortunately stops there.

The Hows of Us starts to wobble when the love story is extended from the momentous separation. The real conceit of the film happens several years after the sudden break-up, when the two former lovers again meet, faced with a situation of having to live in the same house they previously shared. George, who is trying her best not to fall for Primo’s familiar charms, wants to sell the house to earn money to pay for the medical treatment of his younger brother (Darren Espanto). Primo, who supposedly has matured from his sudden disappearance, wants George back in his life.

While the prologue doesn’t really tread new grounds as it tells a very recognizable tale of a girl and a boy falling deeply in love only to be betrayed in the end, what happens after the prologue is totally about restoring love back in its pedestal however way possible and whatever the cost.

Garcia-Molina fervently recruits tried and tested techniques, molding another love story out of the ashes of what she so artfully dismantled. Sadly, George and Primo’s second stab at romance is less interesting and also problematic in the sense that the glaring baggage from their previous pairing makes the eventual reconciliation a loftier task.

Even more dubious is that the film treads the most agreeable path toward its predictable happy ending. It assembles humorous situations, from George literally dividing their house with a duct tape to Primo becoming stunned at the sight of George’s curves making him say yes to her every request. It follows the safest route possible, concocting sob stories that would force the lovers in a situation where sacrifices are made to depict both hearts that are repentant and forgiving. It parades a litany of quotable quotes to trump its singular objective of proclaiming that love cures all.

It’s all good except that the ease, comfort, and convenience of the former lovers’ journey back to each other’s arms make all its efforts at projecting a more mature type of romance rickety.

Still endearing

Still, The Hows of Us is endearing when it wants to be.

The film really doesn’t offer anything new. However, Garcia-Molina can really make any generic trifle sparkle. There is enough sparkle in The Hows of Us to wade over its unconvincing passages. –


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