Film Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

When you have an overdose of romantic comedy flooding the movie landscape, the tendency is to lose interest in the coming ones.

John Lloyd Cruz with director Cathy Garcia-Molina and Jennylyn Mercado. A thoroughly enjoyable film.

John Lloyd Cruz with director Cathy Garcia-Molina and Jennylyn Mercado. A thoroughly enjoyable film.

They give you the usual hype of a new love team, of yet another new chemistry and when the time comes to watch the movie, you expect the predictable and the usual formula done to death in previous blockbuster films.

Nothing wrong with that except that your brain can only take so much. Too much of one formula desensitizes the creative spirit and leave moviegoers with a bad taste in his entertainment palate.

But Cathy Garcia Molina’s “Just The Three of Us” springs unusual surprises. Indeed it is a romantic comedy in one look but there is real drama when the film touches on the father ( Richard Yap) and son (John Lloyd Cruz) relationship.

CJ Manalo played by Jennylyn Mercado is like a Rossini opera heroine: aggressive in one stance and coy in another and downright funny when she pushes her luck too far. But her present status (pregnant) gives her no recourse but to wage the battle of her life and ask support from the supposed father. She is determined to give her baby a semblance of a good life although marriage is out of the question – at that moment.

To be sure, the baby is a product of a party that ends in the wee hours of the morning. Aspiring airline pilot Uno Abusado (John Lloyd Cruz) sees a beautiful figure slumped on the sofa and forthwith he carries her into the bathroom where lust (and no love) was obviously consumed.

One day, CJ finds herself pregnant, pursues the logical father and the rest of the story unravels as people from two distinct milieu get together.

Before the distant past of Abusado comes into the picture, he entertains the visitor who insists he is the father of her unborn baby. He has many doubts but then again he gives himself the benefit of the doubt. Without his knowledge, he is obviously attracted to the girl and keeps it to himself.

John Lloyd Cruz and Jennylyn Mercado in airline outfit.

John Lloyd Cruz and Jennylyn Mercado in airline outfit.

In the process, he discovers CJ as a potentially good mother. She is hard working, she talks to the baby even before its time and she plays classical music to the baby even in her sleep.

One of the most poignant scenes in the movie is Uno (Cruz) listening to classical music being played on top of the womb of the mother. His facial reaction sends a good signal to the audience.

In the end, he has no choice but to prepare for eventual fatherhood.

But as he prepares for the rigors of career training and flying requirements, he has hidden pending issues with his father (Yap). When the confrontation ensues, you see the side of Cruz as a sensitive actor and a damn good one. In the scene, the hurt is real, his need for fatherly love is long overdue and here you forget you are watching a romantic comedy.

Indeed, the big surprise of the film is that while Mercado keeps the audience guffawing with her naiveté, you also observe Cruz giving a good slice of his craft in yet another memorable scene.

One must say the screenwriters (Kiko Abrillo, Gillian Ebreo, Katherine Labayen and Vanessa R. Valdez) did a good job here while Director Molina often overwhelms us with her solid and precise directorial insights. She has a way of projecting the characters’ humanity while not forgetting to make humorous comment.

There is a dose of riproaring comedy in this film and a sizable overlay of drama. But best of all, the film unravels the characters with some kind of spontaneity with nothing studied or contrived.

The ensemble playing Cruz’s friends is a very versatile lot and ditto with the members of the Manalo family where Mercado belongs. Wonders never cease as you see Joel Torre play padre de familia with acting nuances never wanting. The part of Maria Isabel Lopez as the mother is an underwritten one but her presence without lines makes you realize she is an actress through and through.

As for the lead actress (Mercado), she manages to be fresh in her approach especially when she asserts her character’s innocent determination. She has enough share of funny moments but she can also hold her own in the film’s dramatic encounters.

John Lloyd Cruz and Jennylyn Mercado in bed. Natural chemistry.

John Lloyd Cruz and Jennylyn Mercado in bed. Natural chemistry.

But Cruz remains the focal point of this film.

His character is defined layer by layer, you get an idea why he is always aloof and somewhere in the film, his character comes full circle without effort. The actor is evolving beautifully and the results warm the heart and give you a degree of intelligence limned by natural instinct.

“Just The Three of Us” directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina is now showing in cinemas.

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