Direction: Cathy Garcia-Molina
2012, Star Cinema
Tessa Maria Guazon
Fate would have it that in the space of three days I watched Vilma Santos as June (in Kampus, 1978), the firm believer of ‘free love’ caught between the attentions of two men, and Angel Locsin as the fierce Ces, setting the terms of an affair with a man she decidedly resists. Four decades apart, these representations of strong, independent women caught within obstacles premised on love remain appealing to viewers. The conflicts faced by June and Ces are hinged on unconventional ideas about the conduct of heterosexual relationships. These women characters unequivocally distance themselves from the bind of traditional relationships and the expectations that burden it; June with sophisticated musing and Ces with stoic distance.
At the outset, Unofficially Yours, a 2011 romantic comedy release (directed by Garcia-Molina) seemed to have succeeded in its light hearted summoning of the unconventional, but gradually failed in constructing a vigorous frame of values underlying such arrangements. Falling into the trap of characterization (weak at that), the film tentatively skimmed the contexts that give rise to these agreements and ultimately lost the potential inherent to romantic comedy to “negotiate and respond dynamically to [the] issues and preoccupations of its times”.
In turns hilarious and sentimental, Unofficially Yours started with promise as lead characters Ces and Macky (John Lloyd Cruz) struggle with undeniable attraction. Pretty soon, the training in reportage for a daily began to include passionate rambles in bed – with ‘no-strings’ attached. Cruz’s antics were heart-warming and funny but wore off by the time the film reached its mid-hour stride. Locsin is Ces, a driven and ambitious journalist, beautiful, independent, very much her own woman. Her sceptical attitude to love and romantic relationships is both her allure and armour. Macky’s male friends cajole him with the idea that an ambiguously decided relationship in this day and age is the best there could be. Macky, after all won’t be subject to the demands of a typical romantic attachment.
Macky is a dentist from a well-knit middle-class family exploring writing as a possible career. Ces on the other hand, is breadwinner to a near-dysfunctional family. Surrounded by sisters, Macky’s vulnerability is cushioned by his family’s assuring presence. Ces’s mother and brother, both jobless, rely on her to support the household. These backgrounds are crucial in establishing these characters’ personas, yet they are not fully mobilized to help ground Ces and Macky within their milieu.
Locsin fills out the character of Ces convincingly, in turns adept as the matter-of-fact, wryly humorous friend and co-worker, the nonchalant lover, the firm, ambitious journalist and a woman afraid of loss and pain. While Locsin consistently holds out the persona of Ces, Cruz disappointedly fails with Macky. If indeed, he is a man who has a poor sense of direction and makes the women in his life the compass of his ambitions, Cruz falls short in endowing this vacillation with depth. He is boyishly charming in his overtures and vulnerable in his disappointments, yet Macky Galvez the fledgling features writer, seems to lack the introspection that could have adequately fleshed out his sensitive nature.
Their arrangement seemed convenient until jealousy and the demands of Ces’s career entered the picture. Ces delays her application for Singapore, inwardly denying her growing affection for Macky who, from the start was hell bent to impress her. She ultimately confesses that this preference for the unconventional relationship is borne of fear. In the past, she risked all for love when she moved to Cebu with her then architect-boyfriend. Her dreams fell apart when she met an accident and was abandoned for an offer of an architectural practice in New York. From then on, she steeled herself from disappointment by shielding her heart from the lures of love.
While Vilma Santos’s June ponders her preference for ‘free love’ intelligently, weighs her dilemmas with pensive introspection, faces her hurdles with sarcasm and humour; Angel Locsin’s Ces is denied this chance, wallows instead in denial which became infuriatingly tiresome. This is not to blame Locsin’s abilities as an actor (adept at she is in portraying conflicted characters, torn in situations not of their making) but on the film’s failure to fully flesh out its characters. The film failed to grasp a deeper vein of feeling. Thus, when we find Ces and Macky in strained conversations grappling with their predicaments as individuals and lovers, why do they seem unconvincing, their loneliness and dilemmas so affected?
The office may not be the ideal setting to mix work and play (indeed, pleasure in this case) so blatantly. When Unofficially Yours made the work place the universe where romance runs its banal course, we fail to grasp the entirety of Ces’s and Macky’s worlds, depicted intermittently and with seeming hesitation. I will credit instead the interest in unconventional romantic partnerships boxed and tied with comedic strings, for the film’s success at the box-office. The final scenes when Cruz and Locsin sang to each other in a manner fit for a love team’s promotional duet in a weekend variety show sealed the film’s fate. Much like Ces, we waver between blossoming attraction and full-fledged commitment. Officially, however we choose neither and bemoan the end of what may have been a potentially instructive romcom venture.
Jermyn, Deborah. 2011. “Unlikely Heroines? ‘Women of a Certain Age’ and Romantic Comedy” in Cineaction 85: 26-33.
 Stacey Abbot and Deborah Jermyn. eds. 2009. Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema. IB Tauris, 3 cited in Jermyn, 2011: 26.