Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bb. Joyce Bernal's Of All The Things - Cinematic Delight

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!


Anonymous said...

this movie is bursting with typical mainstream formula. but it's done so well and decently, you end up enjoying it anyway. you come out of the cinema not bearing the feeling of being had.

it also helps that the world the characters operate in is something fresh as far as recent Pinoy romcoms are concerned: low-profile lawyers, small-time legal critters, and what-not. :) I am yet to see though a legal professional complaining of any inaccuracy the film portrayed regarding the Bar exams and related legal stuff. but it seems the writer did his homework anyway, unless the writer is an actual lawyer

-j. lax

Cathy Pena said...


To be honest, I was ready not to like it. There were talks within industry insiders that Muhlach was "iffy" about this because of how the production stalled for 3 long years. In fact, not a part of the script was changed since they started filming it 3 years ago.

What can I say? I absolutely enjoyed it. It is a "very" mainstream film, but that doesn't even become an issue here. No buts and ifs there.

BTW, haven't you thought of starting your own film blog? I like the way you use words and you have more valid ideas and cinematic sense than many bloggers I know. :)

Anonymous said...

^^ yeah I've pondered about that recently, you know, starting my own film review blog. but then I realized, I am also a filmmaker (and a budding one at that). It WILL be awkward to, you know, bash some [local] films I don't like, and people behind those films might then check out my own films and see that they're no precious diamonds as well. :D

I tend to be brutally honest when reviewing films, and it will suck when I attend film events and encounter people behind the films I bashed. I might, you know, irritate a lot of people from the industry, and in revenge, they will not support my films in the future.

I'm rambling, ahaha. that's me thinking out loud. What do you think?


Cathy Pena said...


Agree. It's going to be a gargantuan headache for you. :) Thank heavens I am not in anyway connected with film making. :)

Anonymous said...

unless I assume a different persona with a different pen name for the film review blog >:)


Cathy Pena said...


I'd advise against using a pen name. Regardless, once you've accumulated a considerable readership, many of them would feel the need to know you personally as though you're an artista. They will google for your Facebook, twitter, photo, resume, etc. There is a price for being "bold" and "honest". I have so many horror AND delightful stories from this experience. :)

I just want an avenue for self expression. :) said...

Am I the only one who noticed how their weights change in between scenes? Otherwise solid movie.

Cathy Pena said...

@ Mark:

For some reason, their appearance wasn't even among my concerns. It was a delightful cinematic experience for me. :)

Ja Quintana said...

Hi! I'm just wondering if you'd like to write a review for us and how can I contact you if ever?-Ja Quintana :)

Cathy Pena said...

Hi Ja,

Followed your link. This is for an online website?