Emil (Aga Muhlach) unexpectedly lucked out when he failed his bar exams. After all, he’s among UP Law’s top students. Meanwhile, his girlfriend (Miriam Quiambao) successfully hurdles the bar and becomes a lawyer. She would then become Emil’s constant reminder of his failure. So they part ways. This adversity puts his life in stasis. These days, Emil illegally works with a typewriter under an umbrella by the roadside, notarizing documents for a fee. With his dignity tucked like tail between his legs, Emil is a fallen man. His successful brother (Raymond Lauchengco) constantly sneers at him, and his father (Tommy Abuel) – a retired, albeit brilliant law professor – all but glances his way with clipped conversation. They haven’t spoken about his academic debacle; and it’s burrowing down his self esteem. So he keeps to himself.
Meanwhile, Berns (Regine Velasquez) is a professional fixer with dubious connections to prominent people. She introduces herself as a politician’s former youth leader, then insinuates herself in the company of influential politicians: mayors, governors, even Senator Chiz Escudero. This allows her to push disputable contractors for a fee, of course. In various occasions, these acquaintances get her out of a bind. One day, she meets Emil who so impressed her, she decides to hire him to pose as her lawyer – one of her contacts refuses to pay her commission when a deal turns sour. This commences into a partnership that would have Berns take Emil under her tutelage.
When Emil acquiesces, Berns begins planning Emil’s life. While the two deny their obvious attraction to each other (“Di kita type”, Berns would say), their constant companionship soon turns amorous – and they’re found kissing each other. Emil tells Berns that he’s fallen for her, but she’s adamant. Unfortunately, Berns’ mother (Gina Pareno) isn’t crazy about the non-lawyer. She’s afraid Berns would end up like her who subsists selling fake bags (“They’re genuine leather,” she’d say) while her husband (Ariel Ureta) stays home.
One day, Berns hands over Emil’s application forms to re-take the bar, complete with references and the necessary documents. Emil freezes. In his mind, he can never face such loss again. Berns’ actions so enraged him, he storms out leaving his tearful “partner”. Is there happy ever after for our kindred protagonists? Guess.
Director Joyce Bernal seems most inspired whenever she works with Aga Muhlach and Regine Velasquez. Bernal's tandem with scriptwriter Mel Martinez-del Rosario has produced one of the most artistically and financially successful local romcom-trilogy of all time: 1999’s “Dahil May Isang Ikaw”, 2000’s “Kailangan Ko’y Ikaw” and 2001’s “Pangako Ikaw Lang”. More than a decade later, Bernal brings back the magic with a more urgent and diverting narrative concern: how to deal with defeat. While majority of flicks in the genre is punctuated by cotton candy veneers and characters with bittersweet, albeit fairy tale lives, "Of All The Things" touches base with "losers".
Bernadette's life wallows in getting through shady deals. Emil's is frozen with self pity. And if fantasies are made of these sad excuse of heroes, where then could people derive their inspiration? Bernal and Del Rosario guide us through the intricacies of patience, perseverance and love even from "losers" like Berns and Umboy (aka Emil).
Aga Muhlach delivers another insightful performance that curiously parallels to his "deadbeat' role in Olivia Lamasan's "In the Name of Love". It is thus a testament to Muhlach's artistic sensibility that he was able to adequately delineate his role here. He succeeds to personify Emil with all his emotional pathos. Muhlach's silent moments are a virtual force of nature, like when he finally admits to his father how he needs his help (to review for his retake). His scenes with Abuel are heart breaking like when the latter tells him: "Sa araw araw na nakikita kong bitbit mo ang makinilya mo, ako ang nanliliit." The gravity between these two actors could summon tsunamis of emotion, you better hold on to solid ground. Needless to say, Tommy Abuel complements Muhlach's grief. Abuel, after all, is a real life lawyer; and his emotional gravitas is more than considerable. He is one of the country's best actors of all time.
In this movie, Regine Velasquez-Alcasid (she's billed as such) comes into her own. Her frenetic movements and assiduous demeanor are believable. Gone are her awkward facial ticks and affectations. Velasquez has finally learned how to relax and get comfortable with her emotions. In fact, she succeeds - with flying colors - to create a valid character and to make Berns an endearing soul; a tall order when you're a hideous professional fixer. Evidently, this is her career best.
The film is further punctuated by winsome characters, and not one of them is a throwaway: Gina Pareno as flaky mother Susana who's overly cautious of her daughters' affairs (she's so adorable and hilarious despite her nagging demeanor); Mark Bautista as Eps, Emil's cousin; John Lapus as Berns' assistant Rocky; Joy Viado as the errant contractor Mrs. Manubat; Raymond Lauchengco as Emil's brother; Jojo Alejar as Berns' suitor, and Ariel Ureta as Eduardo, Berns' father (His short line to his wife is memorable: "Minahal naman kita nang tapat.") Eugene Domingo cameos as a bar exam monitor.
Romcoms like this have a tendency to be predictable, but the characters are so beautifully written, you understand all their motivations and you empathize with their dilemmas. With brisk pacing yet unhurried exposition, unobtrusive music, occasional funny glibs, adequately developed characters, well-tempered performances, inspired writing, and the pervading theme on the redemptive power of love, it's easy to declare "Of All The Things" as one of 2012's most delightful and affecting movies. It allows you to leave the cinema with a lingering warm feeling - and a huge smile on your face. I am reminded why I love the movies. This is first rate entertainment! Do not miss it!
|This scene is not to be missed as Emil trades legal jargon with Bern's nemesis, Mrs. Manubat. This is so funny!|