December 29, 2014
Julian Parker is a Fil-am guy from New York who is looking for someone who could translate a bitter letter from English to Filipino. After an exhaustive online search and interview, he decided that spunky English tutor Tere Madlansacay is the best person for the job.
Julian could not move on from his last Filipina girlfriend Megan who left him to return to Manila. Tere is tired from being a doormat to her jerk ex-boyfriend who merely abuses her cluelessness to his advantage. In between language lessons, Julian and Tere realize they have so much in common that they eventually become good friends. Will love be far behind, or will it be lost in translation?
Thus goes the synopsis of the rom-com which surprised everyone when it won Best Director for Dan Villegas, Best Actor for Derek Ramsay, Best Actress for Jennylyn Mercado, Best Screenplay for Antoinette Jadaone & Anj Pessumal, Best Original Story for Antoinette Jadaone and Dan Villegas and Best Editor for Marya Ignacio. However, ironically, despite winning all these major awards, it only garnered Second Best Picture. However, for a rom-com to win all these awards is a pleasantly unexpected reward to cherish already. These wins are creating a buzz for the improved box office performance that it truly deserves.
I only knew Jennylyn Mercado as a celebrity who had well-publicized love affairs with other actors. However, I confess I am not really familiar with her as an actress. This is the first movie I have seen her act, and it was definitely a very winning performance indeed. She is very pretty, very charming, and very funny in this role. She threw all caution to the wind, giving her all to make her character Tere stand out from other rom-com leading ladies we have seen before. This was a fresh and very natural performance that carried the whole film. As good as Vina Morales or Kris Aquino were, they did not really play the central character of their respective films. This may have worked in Mercado's favor.
We know Derek Ramsay as a quintessential macho man women fight over in films. He was basically playing his typical macho persona in the first part of the film. However, I think it is the subsequent scenes where Ramsay shows us a part of him we are not so familiar with. There was that vulnerable scene where Julian pours out his frustrations about his ex, and that exquisitely tender scene where Julian confesses how he felt for Tere. This tough guy could actually play it sweet and cute! I believe it may be these uncharacteristic scenes which revealed Ramsay's versatility and range that won him the Best Actor award over more obvious favorites like Robin Padilla or Coco Martin, who basically played within their comfort zones in their entries.
Antoinette Jadaone is really having one big year this year. "English" is her fourth big film this year following successes of "Beauty in a Bottle", "Relaks, It's Only Pag-ibig", and "A Thing Called Tadhana". She actually rehashed a key event in "Tadhana" here -- the videoke singing session. The song here though is by Roselle Nava, instead of Whitney Houston. The dual awards Jadaone won for the script and story of this film caps off the momentous career achievements she had in 2014.
Another device that reminded me of "Tadhana" were those random cards showing the definitions of various words (like "mot-mot", "kitakits", "taralets", "yi hii" or "chikinini") which helped in adding humor to the proceedings. For instance, "love" was defined as that thing that makes a person "tanga" (or stupid). Like these, "Tadhana" had an animated story about a heart and an arrow that was interspersed in the live action.
Yes, there were some distracting product placements for sponsors like Dunkin Donuts, Apple laptops, the Block in SM City North EDSA, and even that upcoming Nick Jonas film "Be Careful What You Wish For". Luckily they were few and far between. I am also wondering why the MTRCB rated this film PG when there are scenes suggestive of premarital sex and frank discussions about that topic as well. R-13 (or even 16) would have been more appropriate.
Director cum cinematographer Dan Villegas tells his story in a very light-hearted manner. That he was able to slowly and surely build up the romantic tension between the two lead characters in such a way to make the audience feel that all important sense of "kilig" (or thrill) between an unlikely pair of actors (not an established rom-com love team) is evidence of his directorial skills.
Villegas is lucky to have two very effective actors, Jennylyn Mercado and Derek Ramsay, who were able to embody the characters so perfectly as they were written. For "English Only, Please", it was the actors' talent, charisma and chemistry that elevated the typical rom-com formula story to a higher level of cinematic entertainment. 7/10.