tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ Can’t Help Lapsing into Lazy Formula

Obvious talent doesn’t quite make up for the film’s patchy screenplay.

NBHD movie 2-2 ticketsCan’t Help Falling in Love is about Gab (Kathryn Bernardo), who has just gotten engaged with her boyfriend of six years, Jason (Matteo Guidicelli), in spite of some trepidation about the choice. And then, one day, she receives a marriage certificate in the mail. A year ago, she got drunk and somehow got legally married to Dos (Daniel Padilla) at a party. She seeks out Dos and then tries everything she can to get their marriage nullified. Dos is uncooperative at first, but ends up working with her anyway in a series of schemes to find a way out of the marriage.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11.43.11 AMThis is a pretty farfetched premise, and the film seems to know it. Even if you buy into the validity of the marriage (which presumably did not involve them submitting all of the required documents, unless they are the type of people that just carry their birth certificates around), it’s still hard to buy into Gab’s approach into trying to solve this problem. But for a while, the film gets around this by playing it all as a screwball caper, their attempts at fabricating the circumstances required for an annulment treated with the absurdity that they really deserve. For a while, the film is just a document of how ridiculously difficult it is to get separated in this country, even when the marriage is so clearly without merit.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11.30.45 AMBut that’s not what this movie goes for in the end. It’s pushing for the pairing of these two young people and their inevitable happiness together. And in putting together this story, it feels like the film just goes into autopilot. All the same elements are there: secondary characters that seem to exist only to vocalize the dilemmas of the main characters, an alternative beau that is played as a villain right from the start, a medical issue that expedites the drama in the third act, and so on. The film plays up the drama in the back half, but does so in the context of its dreadful artifice.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11.43.50 AMIt just doesn’t entirely feel like the movie really knows what it wants to be about. It is partly a story of a young woman learning that she can’t let other people make decisions for her, particularly when it comes to marriage. But the story just pushes her to another marriage anyway, never giving her a chance at the freedom she supposedly yearns for. The whole subplot concerning her burgeoning career doesn’t get a resolution, which is strange considering how important it seemed to be at the start. It is also partly a story of a young man who needs to choose life. But the dilemma never makes sense in the context of the character, who at the start of the film is portrayed as someone already willing to take chances.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11.32.54 AMThere are isolated moments in this film that are genuinely affecting, but that’s more a credit to the performances than anything else. Daniel Padilla has grown to be quite an entertaining actor, a beguiling earnestness shining through now that he isn’t playing a brooding teenager. He continues to play well with Kathryn Bernardo, who always brings weird depth to her characters, regardless of how she’s written. The supporting cast, though spilling over with talent, is just never given enough to do within this formula.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 11.48.38 AMThe talent is obvious enough in Can’t Help Falling in Love. There are scenes that work pretty well, the direction in scattered moments getting a lot out of the growing chemistry between the two leads. But the larger story that they’re telling is kind of a mess. At times, it feels like the movie is making it up on the fly, with story threads just disappearing, and new dramatic wrinkles changing the shape of the narrative from moment to moment. The same talent applied to a screenplay that really knows what it wants say right from the start would be really something.

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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