Do we really dive into marriage, all body and soul, without much trepidation? Regardless of how much we love another person with every strand and cellular component of our being, there will always be a part of ourselves wanting to remain unencumbered by commitment. People are, after all, born alone. We do not come into this world with a bunch of friends. This reality, though heavily ignored, emphasizes a person’s need for the occasional solitude. The concept of marriage threatens this. But we sometimes have to decide exclusively for ourselves, most especially when it involves a more immediate reason staring right back at us. But that is easier said than done.
A pair of young lovers learn the hard way.
Mayumi (Erich Gonzales) and Lance (Enchong Dee) don’t share the same thoughts on love. To her, it’s the inescapable hand of fate. To him, it all equates to choice. But one day, they meet at a friend’s wedding and a force more powerful than gravity drew them together. Theirs was a match made in heaven, until Yumi realizes she’s pregnant. This throws Lance out on a loop, but the young couple (who’s finishing college) eventually decides to inform Yumi’s parents (Dennis Padilla and Pokwang) who agree with their decision to defer marriage until after their graduation. But where does this place Lance’s close-knit, albeit clueless Chinese family?
While Lance finds it difficult to introduce Yumi to his parents (Isay Alvarez and Ricardo Cepeda), he nevertheless invites her to his angcong’s (family patriarch, and Lance’s grandfather) birthday party. She puts her best foot forward to charm their pants off. But it soon becomes clear that old family traditions as rigidly bigoted as some Chinoy families (“Ang Chinese ay para sa Chinese.”) are Yumi’s biggest stumbling block in her quest for acceptance. This doesn’t stop the couple from planning the big date (in a hilarious scene where Lance drops a ring and Yumi catches him kneeling down in front of her). This would take Yumi and Lance’s romance on a zany rollercoaster ride. Will they ever get to say “I do”?
Erich Gonzales shows why she deserves lead roles, and she does so with effervescent charm and an endearingly insightful take on Mayumi. In one scene, she cries with skeptical elation as Lance declares his affection, and all she could say was an adorable, “Di nga?” In another scene, she whimpers with a simple, “Ayaw nya kasi akong pakasalan eh.” Yet we feel the distress of someone who’s been dismissed many times over. Which other star can impart those salient emotions in conspicuously meager lines? I can only think of two names, and not more. Real talent indeed doesn’t need kilometric spiels to highlight an emotion, and it is in this essence that we truly adore the talent of this young lady!
Enchong Dee on the other hand complements Erich’s bubbly persona with his characterization of a pessimistic Lance. The yin and the yang would never function if both “elements” tip the same scale. Having said this, we are prone to emphasize that Enchong is an intuitive young actor, if only he doesn't fret like a child – or worse, a girl. In the film, Lance is a grown up man who can father babies. Indeed, in some scenes, he needs a little bit more “machismo” – a shot of testosterone, a flexing of the muscle; a more tempered, nay, modulated delivery. The production could have benefited by giving him swimming scenes where he could parade and flex his swimming muscles, just to emphasize gender assignation. It’s a long shot, but at least the audience is reminded that “Enchong is our man” - and not some childish cuckoo who talks to his car! And with a delectable swimming body like his, who would forget? Furthermore, legendary leading men like Rock Hudson and Cary Grant never had lips redder than their leading ladies, did they?
I’m also partial to the supporting characters. Dennis Padilla is particularly affecting. This observation is significant because Padilla’s role as Mang Caloy (Yumi’s father) is a comic one, but he effectively imbues it with the perfect paternal veneer. We laugh when he throws used appliances at the Tans (Lance’s family), then we shed a tear for his despair. Pokwang isn’t that successful, which is disappointing because I like her. Ditto with Melai Cantiveros who has always been such a darling on the small screen. She can ridiculously reduce me into stitches with a deadpan, “Over over” or “Chok”! Unfortunately, Melissa’s character is nothing but an irritating, inconsequential speck. Her presence in the movie is like walking on glazed tiles with scratchy grains of sand on your shoes!
Janus del Prado’s Bernard could have been amiable to the very end, but the writer should have known when not to over stay his character’s welcome. Alwyn Uytingco is turning out to be one of the industry’s most dependable character actors. We also like Jun Urbano’s angcong; the moderated grace of Isay Alvarez as Lance’s mother, and that darling Eliza Pineda who plays Lance’s youngest sister. The movie is filled with amiable characters and this is one of the reasons why the film works.
I do have an issue with the Chinese cultural preference that “Ang Chinese ay para sa Chinese lamang”. If that’s the case, it’s quite easy – and cheap – these days to move away to China. I won’t stop them, obviously! They are free to head back to old-world Communism and old-world practices they see fit. Any Chinoy who bears such prejudiced thoughts should rid themselves of all the Filipinos by getting the f___ off this country, di ba? Might as well make this country a "Philippines for Filipinos only". That had to be said!
Veronica Velasco, in her very first mainstream work as a director (Unitel who produced "Inang Yaya" is still considered an indie film outfit), doesn’t just pass muster. In my book, she soars the cinematic skies with a hundred and one colors. I am particularly pleased with her narrative style: her characters always beat nauseatingly recurring odds (Maricel Soriano’s household chores as nanny Norma in “Inang Yaya”; Jodi Sta. Maria and Victor Basa as the runaway couple who pretends to be husband and wife in “Maling Akala”; and the hilarious Joey Paras as the gay P.A. who lost a wall tapestry in “Last Supper No. 3”). Velasco's main characters are endowed with the virtue of patience, and this isn’t lost in Yumi’s character who suffered several rejections not just from Lance’s family, but from Lance himself. Sure, this may have turned tedious and even dragged the exposition in the middle part of the story, but the ultimate payback is nothing less than inspiring!
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
The good news is, when I watched the movie on a Thursday afternoon, I was surprised to find the huge theater almost fully occupied – on a dead hour. The bad news is, Erich Gonzales is allegedly starting to act like a diva on the set and elsewhere. Heaven knows I like this girl, but just like an over inflated balloon, such excesses will ultimately burst into nothing but tattered pieces of plastic. So let this be false! I don’t want to loathe her, as she’s too talented to be disliked.
And didn’t you hear that “I Do” couldn’t even muster a B-rating from the Cinema Evaluations Board (CEB)? The hearsay goes, “It wasn’t funny enough!” according to the reviewing board, which goes to highlight the range of brain activity among CEB’s flock. If they probably placed Gil Portes as this movie’s co-director or line producer, "I Do" could have surely bagged an A-rating! Di ba, “Pitik Bulag”? Di ba, “Two Funerals”? And yes, honey, I did a glowing review of the latter which goes to show that regardless of the quality of his films, any Gil Portes film – good or bad - will always merit an A-rating. Isn’t it about time that this sad excuse of a pseudo-ratings board is scrapped? That way, we can rightfully put their otherwise unemployed members out to pasture!