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So much to unpack

By Michelle Anne P. Soliman, Reporter

Movie ReviewLabyu with an AccentDirected by Rodel NaciancenoMTRCB Rating: PG

THE ORDINARY guy meets rich girl trope, a romance that moves from the United States to the Philippines and back, traditional principles about married life, and the depiction of Filipino immigrants are unpacked in this two-hour romantic comedy.   

Labyu with an Accent follows Trisha (played by Jodi Sta. Maria), a US-based businesswoman born to a rich family who returns to the Philippines after she catches her fiancé cheating. She returns to Manila where she reunites with her best friends from childhood. 

They then go to a club where she first encounters Gabo (Coco Martin, who, under his real name Rodel Nacianceno, also directed the film). Learning of Trisha’s heartbreaking story, Gabo pitches his family business called “The Ultimate Boyfriend Experience” where the customer spends a few nights with a guy at his family compound which has been transformed into a mini resort with a buffet, karaoke machine, and swimming pool. The end goal: to move on, start anew, and, possibly, find a new boyfriend. 

Here’s where things get funny. Trisha’s friends convince her to avail of the package and leave her at the compound along with Gabo’s family and friends. The following day is spent with the couple touring Manila. And (surprise!) after one day (based on the fact that there are no wardrobe changes in between scenes), Trisha falls for Gabo. However, a phone call from her father prompts her to break ties and return abroad. 

Trisha then receives a phone call from Gabo who is in California (surprise!) where he also has relatives. How did he get to travel abroad? It was not shown or explained.

Trishaasks Gabo to pretend to be her new wealthy businessman boyfriend to keep her ex-fiancé out of the family business. Due to her parents’ (Michael De Mesa and Jaclyn Jose) disapproval, she moves in with her new “boyfriend” in a posh apartment where they struggle to live a new life as a couple.

While I was not completely sold on their romantic chemistry, the choice to pair these actors for the movie is not unusual.

Jodi Sta. Maria’s acting is convincing (she has, after all, won Best Actress in a leading role at the Asian Academy Creative Awards for The Broken Marriage Vow), particularly in a scene where she sings Morrissette Amon’s “Gusto Ko Ng Bumitaw” at a karaoke and breaks down crying. She also pulls off English slang to show that she grew up in the US, but still speaks and understands Filipino. 

The movie tends to lean towards the traditional roles of a man and a woman in a relationship. In some scenes, Gabo delivers lines about how as the man in the relationship it’s his obligation to work and provide (although he only had a tourist visa!). 

I appreciate that the film includes the depiction of Filipino immigrants and attempts to debunk (slightly) the idea that one can live comfortably just because one has moved abroad. It also touches on how one’s profession and status should not be a basis for earning love and respect. 

I can’t say if the pairing of a couple like Trisha and Gabo is likely to happen in real life. It’s predictable ending just reinforces that wishful thinking.

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