THE Richard Gomez-Dawn Zulueta combination is one that does not get old. Seeing them together, even if fleetingly as in She’s Dating The Gangster, or in a soap opera or other, a gamut of other images run through your head.
Say, scenes from Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit and notions of ‘til death do us part ala Wuthering Heights, Philippines-style. Say, the countless instances in which they came out on TV, singing a love song, dressed like supermodels. Or just that softdrink commercial where all either of them said was “regular” or “diet.”
This of course is what The Love Affair (directed by Nuel Naval, written by Vanessa Valdez with a set of film consultants—I counted 10!) banked on. Where questions for the two actors now happily married to Rep. Lucy Torres Gomez and Rep. Anton Lagdameo respectively, still revolved around their past romance. What was it like working together? They were asked. Kinikilig pa rin kami, they were told.
It’s enough to get you giddy really, and in a really good, well-written project Zulueta and Gomez could be the epitome of how we can make films that respect the fact that our actors do age, and they do remain viable as box-office stars, without the pa-cute, without the trappings of celebrity.
“A really good well-written project” is the operative phrase here.
Love is ageless
Because in any other project, we would see nothing but the fact that Gomez and Zulueta have gotten old. That is the case with The Love Affair, which ironically tries to deny that age exists at all.
But of course it exists, especially when the love affair in question is between a doctor Vince (Gomez) and a young lawyer Adie (Bea Alonzo), who happen upon each other at a time when they are individually suffering the aftermath of infidelity. Vince’s wife Tricia (Zulueta) cheated on him with his best friend; Adie’s fiancée cheats on her and she finds out via a sex video.
It seems simple enough really, where the common experience of hurt and pain is enough to bring two people closer together. But the usual crisis of whether this is right or wrong, of being rebound or panakip butas, is discussed very superficially here; it is also very quickly resolved.
And then the biggest surprise of all: age is not discussed at all. This, even as Adie is so obviously younger than Vince. In fact to rationalize the age difference—or to erase it, maybe?—Greg’s eldest daughter is teenager compared to Adie, and Adie’s father (Al Tantay) is older than Greg by a full generation.
That this conversation is not had is the strangest thing, because it is the most obvious difference between the two. In real life, Adie would joke about the fact that Vince is like an older brother, a kuya who teaches her how to sail, and how to be free and independent. In real life, Vince would convince Adie that age does not matter, because he while he sees her as a young fragile girl who needs to be cared for like a younger sister, he is also attracted to her.
The conversations could veer away from clichés totally, and could’ve given us more depth. The characters are older after all than those we usually see in our local romances. It would’ve been great to give them more complex personalities, too.
No such luck.
Love has no personality
Probably the bigger problem for this story more than the lack of conversation about the age difference between Vince and Adie, was the lack of conversation between the two, period. Save for the montage of Vince teaching Adie how to sail, where he was the one talking, there was no clear sense of these two people’s personalities.
They were thrown together by circumstances that were so trite: Adie gets into an accident, and Vince is on the same road and brings her to the hospital; Adie enters a coffee shop drenched by the rain, and Vince is there buying a cup of coffee; Adie goes to some sailing club for a job interview, and there’s Vince again, doing some sailing.
And as if those instances were not cliché enough, the conversations between Adie and Vince were just as trite. The problem though had everything to do with the fact that neither of them were established as real characters, with personalities that clicked regardless of age. Vince and Adie never talked about anything other than their problems with infidelity; and the next thing we knew they were talking about falling in love with each other.
Cut to sex scene, in the beach, on some rocks. This is the same beach that they show at any other time to be filled with people sailing. Maybe they didn’t care? Maybe the love and desire was that strong? Who knows? Who cares? Who are these two characters that we’ve been watching for two hours, and what are they here for?
Love repeats itself
This is the thing: The Love Affair already had three actors who could take a script and make a story happen. But they need a script and a story that’s as good as they are. This just was not it.
Zulueta as Tricia was not given enough to sink her teeth into, and just ended up vacillating between being martyr wife and mother to being angry wife, without much complexity or wisdom. Gomez could’ve gone beyond the pa-cute that he fell back on, if only the daddy vibes—and yes, the dad bod, and the age!—were worked into his character instead of being denied altogether.
Alonzo is the one who shines here, no matter the flimsiness of her character. Sadly, she’s also done something like this before, where the weak dependent girl loses her man and finds herself at a loss about how to go about living as herself, by herself.
Yes, that’s Lara from And I Love You So. And that was far more enjoyable to watch than this unbelievable love affair, written with a gamut of script consultants, and every cliché and trope imaginable.