tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Can We Still Be Friends’ Doesn’t Dig Deep Enough

The film is lovely on the surface, but stumbles in telling its story.

NBHD movie 2-2 ticketsCan We Still Be Friends follows couple Sam and Diego (Arci Muñoz and Gerald Anderson), who at the start of the movie seem to have fallen into a rut eight years into their relationship. Though the two seem to genuinely like each other, Sam grows frustrated with Diego’s unwillingness to grow up and change. And so, the two break up. But the two co-own the condo they’re living in. And so Diego doesn’t move out at first, the two seemingly determined to make the best out of an awkward situation. But of course, things get really complicated, and the real issues between the two emerge.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 11.25.09 AMThe first act of the film seems to lean hard on Diego generally being at fault in this relationship. He’s really charming, and he knows Sam well enough to get her to forgive him after he fails to do something. This makes the eventually shape of this story a little weird. Sam is by no means a perfect person as portrayed in the film, but so much of the film seems to be dedicated to her coming to realize just how wrong she was to want to break up with Diego. The film at crucial seems to lean hard on the sentiment that partners should just be able to accept each other’s faults, even when there doesn’t seem to be much effort put into fixing things that are genuinely wrong.

The film does set up a compelling situation. After eight years of being together, the two main characters can’t simply just walk away from each other. Apart from owning property together, there are clearly ties between them that can’t simply be erased. But the film doesn’t really explore the consequences of this setup to a satisfying extent. Rather than linger on the inherent awkwardness and the negotiations that have to be made, the film mainly plays it as cute. When it inevitably falls apart, it all seems to come from external factors rather than the pain that should already exist between these characters.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 11.26.06 AMThis all becomes even more difficult to swallow in the aimless second half. Diego’s in some sort of hazy relationship with another girl, who he doesn’t even really seem to like. We barely see how the experience has changed him, the film still largely focused on Sam’s overwhelming regret over her choices. And at all points, the film seems determined to make their eventual union the only possibility. There’s no tension in this back half, the film making the characters out to be so miserable apart that they stop feeling like complete people.

Having said all that, the movie has some nice, isolated moments. And it all looks gorgeous as well. Tey Clamor’s crisp but moody lensing gives compelling texture to the film’s visuals. In general, scenes where the two are being goofy together are really charming. These scenes play to the strengths of the both actors, who seem to share a genuine, comfortable rhythm when they’re trying to make each other laugh. Gerald Anderson is less effective when he’s playing morose. Arci Muñoz isn’t as fun to watch when she’s playing miserableScreen Shot 2017-06-16 at 11.29.06 AMCan We Still Be Friends is a film that feels good on the surface. The visuals are stunning, there are nice, quotable lines of dialogue, and the leads share more than passable chemistry together. But it’s hard to buy into the story as a whole. When you start to dig into the narrative, it feels like the film is always focusing on the wrong thing, the scenes not directly addressing the problem that it sets up in the first act. There are complicated things to unravel in this situation, and it feels like the film goes too far in simplifying these elements, failing to do justice to what these characters are supposed to be going through.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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