Loving in Tandem begins with the arrival of Luke (Edward Barber). He’s in the Philippines to get his mother to sign some papers that will allow his debt-ridden father to sell their house. Shine (Maymay Entrata) is desperate to get some money to pay for her nephew’s hospital bills. She ends up helping out some pickpockets lift wallets at the church. Among the stolen wallets is Luke’s, and amidst her overwhelming guilt over her part in the crime, she meets the despondent young man, who wants nothing more than to book a flight back to the States, and just happens to live next door.Luke finds out the truth soon enough, and the movie mainly becomes about him forcing Shine to work in order to earn enough money to pay back what he lost. All the while, Luke works out his issues with his mother (Carmi Martin), who he resents for abandoning him when he was a kid. The film basically spends the first half of the movie making Luke terribly unlikable. It isn’t just that he is acting out because he’s been wronged. After a while, it feels like Luke is enjoying having Shine under his thumb. And through all this, the movie continues to sell cutesy little romcom beats.It gets iffy, especially as through her hardship, the film still makes it out that Shine feels lucky to just be around Luke. The second half of the movie focuses on the rehabilitation of Luke’s character, with him eventually waking up to the possibility that he might be a terrible person. And then the film just gets weird. Actually, it’s kind of weird all throughout, juxtaposing grounded, economically-based drama with outsized wacky antics. There’s a lot of emotional whiplash in this movie, jumping from big, silly gags to teleserye-style drama at the drop of a hat. In the big, touching emotional moment that resolves Luke’s parental issues, Ryan Bang’s character still has to make a joke.It never really lands on a particular tone. The final stretch involves several bizarre elements that are theoretically comedic, while involving elements of illegal activities and characters earnestly expressing their feelings to crowds of people. In all this, the film seems to forget to make a case for the romance between the two main characters. It’s one of those situations where the entire supporting cast is already convinced that the two are perfect together. Their relationship is sold through the reactions of others, rather than any inherent value found in their interactions.This isn’t to say that there aren’t any cute moments in this movie. Within the mess of the plot and emotions, the film sometimes hits on something sweet between the two main actors. Both Maymay Entrata and Edward Barber feel pretty raw as onscreen talents, but there’s certainly some potential there. If nothing else, the two show an enthusiasm for what they’re doing, which can go a long way. But there’s just absolutely no nuance to anything that they’re doing. It’s like their characters can only handle one emotion at a time, leaving little room for the conflicting feelings that should be present in their respective situations.To its credit, Loving in Tandem does seem to be trying to feel different from your average romcom. But a lot of its choices just don’t work out. It ends up spending too much time on all the things surrounding the characters: the families, the economics, the criminal elements, and whatever else. It gets too distracted, never really giving enough attention to the problem of why these two ought to be together. In lieu of that, it has an entire barangay cheering for them, even when things are actually pretty terrible. It gets off-putting, the movie just taking romance for granted.
LOVING IN TANDEM IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE