REVIEW | Walang Forever (2015)


Screenwriter Mia Nolasco (Jennylyn Mercado) is the Nancy Meyers of Philippine cinema. And she has a big problem—a dry spell. No love life, no pain, no nothing, and so she is unable to write a follow-up to her previous big-screen romantic-comedy successes.

Her producers, naturally, are disappointed with her creative impotence and threaten to fire her if she cannot save her poorly written script. But the arrival of her ex-boyfriend, Ethan (Jericho Rosales), just might save Mia’s career at the last minute.

Penned by Paul Sta. Ana (My Husband’s Lover), with additional lines by Antoinette Jadaone (That Thing Called Tadhana), and directed by Dan Villegas (English Only, Please), Walang Forever has an appealing concept but fumbles through its execution. Like the sentiments of Mia’s producers, the film evokes a sense of struggle in the script-writing process, with illogical details, less effective storytelling techniques, a rough flow, and also lacks emotional build-up.

To begin with, the film has made use of the “interview” technique, to give us a general idea of Mia and Ethan’s history and heart-break, and this decreases the emotional experience of the movie. A talk show host interviews Mia. Officemates interview Ethan. The movie telling us instead of showing us shows lack of storytelling imagination. The film forgot the power of visual storytelling that it has to resort to this weak and tiresome technique.

And very early on, we are shown a series of movie scenes from Mia’s past blockbuster hits, then quickly follows each scene with a flashback of its inspiration—which is, of course Mia’s real-life experience with Ethan. At this stage, it’s hard to feel anything yet as I barely know the lead characters this early on in the movie. Again, these are all information being fed to me, not experience.

Then Lulie* (Kim Molina), Mia’s best friend, out of the blue, makes an effort to bring Mia and Ethan back together. Why this sudden need? I never saw—through Lulie—Mia’s pain and how she’s still obviously in love with her ex. I just saw a talk show, a series of interviews, movie scenes, and flashbacks, and the present-day awkward encounter between Mia and Ethan at a social event. What triggered Lulie to act so desperately now? Why not earlier? What triggered this? The talk show? Or the social event? When, exactly, is anyone’s guess.

Anyway, Lulie’s matchmaking attempt fails big time—Mia and Ethan bitterly refuse to get back together and only end up hurting each other’s feelings, proving that there’s no such thing as “forever,” as the title says.

But then Ethan accidentally discovers a movie scene from Mia’s early works, bewildered to find that it was adapted from their story. Are you telling me that in the eight years that he and Mia have been together, not once did he watch any of his girlfriend’s movies? Why? Isn't that unnatural for a boyfriend?

Is it possible that Mia wrote the big hits after the breakup? Unlikely, because during their relationship, Mia was busy in her burgeoning screenwriting career, therefore it is suggested that she wrote the big hits during their relationship, and wrote the last hit fresh from the breakup. Eight years of togetherness, and your boyfriend has no idea what you write about for the movies, especially if you’re the Nancy Meyers of the Philippines?

Then the tragedy—the film surprises us with a plot twist: Ethan is dying from brain cancer. Wait, what? Why isn’t he showing any signs of a terminal illness? Ethan swiftly answers our question: his type of brain tumor doesn’t show any symptoms, you’ll just drop dead one day. So why, in the first place, did he see a doctor if he is not experiencing any abnormalities? In annual company checkups, do they routinely do MRIs? I doubt. When was the tumor discovered when it’s an asymptomatic disease?

When Ethan discovers, after a second opinion from a neurologist, that he is without a doubt, dying, he cuts off from Mia to spare her not only from the pain of leaving her so soon but also from seeing him suffer from the illness. But he’s asymptomatic. And he's not deteriorating. Why would Mia be burdened with caring for him?  It’s just the surprise death that would be difficult.

Here’s the worse part: in order not to hurt Mia by the knowledge of his imminent death, he gives her a ridiculous excuse to get out of the relationship:  he’s getting married to another woman.

So, you want the woman you love to have the last memory of you as a cheating and manipulative jerk? To leave a horrible legacy among her friends and family that you’re the awful guy that played with Mia’s feelings? So, Ethan would rather crush the feelings of the woman he loves than devastate her with the simple truth of his inevitable demise?

Also, Mia and Ethan share the same social circle, and with the advent of social media, isn’t Mia bound to find out anyway when Ethan dies? Why the need for the ludicrous, illogical excuse of a non-existent fiancé? And in the Age of Facebook, couldn't have they known of a "fiance" already? If the movie wants conflict and drama, why can’t Ethan simply cut off from Mia? Simply stop answering her calls and texts? That would be painful enough.

And to further break her heart, Ethan even holds a despidida party before he leaves for Taiwan, and invites the whole barkada except Mia. Why not quietly leave the country, no fanfare, just to spare your love more pain?

Ethan’s best friend (Pepe Herrera) quickly spills to the barkada that Ethan is dying; of course, Mia finds out and quite predictably, catches the dying Ethan at the airport to insist her presence in his life and promises to be with him until his surprise death do them apart.

And in the final act, Mia does another dreaded interview and tells everyone that Ethan loved her until his last breath. Why tell me this? Isn’t that already quite obvious? Isn’t that the point of the movie itself? To tell a story about true love? Why assure me—via an interview—that their love is genuine and there was no other woman but Mia?

I already knew how much Ethan loved Mia: first by absurdly lying to her to "protect" her, and then eventually marrying her. And the fact that when the two had broken up, they never had any relationship with other people and only had eyes for each other. That shows true love already. Why does Mia have to do another interview just to inform me about the fact?

Walang Forever’s absurd and illogical details and the poorly written screenplay take away what could have been a rich and dramatic love story. 

But the shining light in all the mess is the talented cast ensemble. Great performances and strong onscreen presence, especially by Rosales and Mercado.

The main supporting cast of Jerald Napoles, and the actress who played Sasha, as well as Pepe Herrera and Kim Molina provide riotous humor, but with laughs banking more on their superb acting abilities and physical appearance rather than on dialogue. But Rosales tops the bunch; he has mastered his craft, delivering an effortless performance, with depth and nuance in his acting, almost redeeming the movie’s flaws.

If visual love displays and the sight of Jericho Rosales, plus some good-natured humor, are enough to give you the thrills and feels and the laughs, then Walang Forever will satisfy you. The film's neat and glossy treatment and production design, plus the heartfelt performances of the talented cast, might sweep you off your feet and trick you into overlooking the glaring plot holes.

But if you’re only capable of falling in love and crying from a credible story and intelligent screenplay, you will be sorely disappointed. Walang Forever’s superficial techniques, and its lack of a strong, credible story, and its unimaginative and inconsistent screenplay, only prove one thing: our mainstream industry has a lot of great bankable actors but is sadly deprived of great screenwriters. Walang Forever is Mia Nolasco’s script during her dry spell.

2015 Metro Manila Film Festival entry, opens December 25 nationwide.

*Lulie (unsure of spelling)
Images from movie trailer by Quantum Films


Anonymous said…
Thank you for putting into words what I felt while watching the movie. You are correct-- ang daming plot holes and the writing was really subpar. And the use of Hand Waving (trope for lazy writing) was really insulting. Mabuti na lang that the actors were competent enough to carry the film since they were given mediocre material.
asl6810 said…
I am watching this movie at the very moment on C1. I went to the bathroom only to come out and catch Jericho crying saying it was hopeless. So I googled, and found out (syrperise!) that he was suddenly dying which lead me to your review.... and yeah...the movie is to put it mildly an insult to my intelligence.