home           about           blog           archives           domain           exits           ask

Never Not Love You: A Review

Never Not Love You is a simple movie. It is quiet and still, letting its pauses speak louder than its lines. In its simplicity, truths are found - a lot of them almost too real, too painful to see unfold. But like a late-night motorcycle ride, coming to terms with these truths on-screen is joyful and scary all at the same time. It makes you feel terrified, but also, alive. It is not your typical Filipino romantic film but it is very much a typical Pinoy love story.

The premise boils down to the same essential question of how far we are willing to go for love. How much of yourself do you give up for the one you love, and how much of this sacrifice becomes a part of who you are?

Dreams are the driving force of this film. This is not a premise we haven’t seen before. We’ve seen it in La La Land, we’ve seen it in Sana Maulit Muli. In many ways, Never Not Love You asks the same questions. The ambiguity of a definitive answer, however, is what sets it apart.
We all know this story: a carefree man falls for a simple girl with big dreams. Joanne wants to be successful and provide for her family; Gio just wants to be happy. These two dreams are not mutually exclusive. But as we all know, they are not always within reach either, especially when the difficulties of life get in the way.

We all know this story: like most of us, they’re not chasing fame or money. They just want satisfaction in a job that gives them sustenance and stability. But with this comes a lot of sacrifice - sacrifice founded on commitment, but also sacrifice that can turn to resentment. Such is the problem that lies at this pragmatic take on a love story.

Two scenes worthy of comparison stand out out to me: one, when they were in Zambales, talking about their dreams, basking in the glow of sunlight - and in their love. This best encapsulates the giddy feeling of a first kiss, the exciting notion of seeing a glimpse of your future with someone. “I just want to be happy.” Don’t we all? It was said with so much optimism, so much carelessness, with no clue about what lies ahead. Kind of makes you remember the first time you talked to a great love about a future, a blurry image of a someday that may include each other.

And then we have that scene where they decide to “renew their vows,” i.e. have their ring finger tattoos re-inked. They were no longer the naive young adults who, on a whim, decided to live together and get matching tattoos. They have weathered years apart, pursued their dreams together and separately, evolved into people their old selves would not recognize. The look on their faces in the ending of the movie notwithstanding, this is a story of two people who made a commitment - and stuck to it. And this is where Never Not Love You strays from a typical romantic movie. Because instead of giving us a clear “Yep, it all ended well,” or “No, they went their separate ways,” - we get two people who made a choice. Is that choice out of love or out of convenience? Only life will tell. Who can say how love dictates our choices? After all, sometimes, choosing to stay is an act of love - one shaped by sacrifice and an understanding of how the years can tear away layers of affection. Besides, who is to rule out a kind of love that sighs, that looks tired, that feels weary? That belief is naive, as naive as telling someone “It’s so easy to be happy,” just after giving them a kiss. Life has thrown them shit, but they managed. Maybe, that’s enough affirmation.

Because this is a "LDR" movie, some beats are to be expected. Some parts of the narrative felt like they needed to be there just to establish the difficulties of being in such a relationship. The arguments felt real - but also, at times, repetitive. In some parts, I felt that the progression of their characters never fully came to fruition. Which is a shame, because I think the ending scene itself could have been more compelling had the lead up to it been less passive.

Nevertheless, the risks taken were reminders of what this movie was going for: not simply kilig, but realism. The truth that love is never constant. It can make you jaded. But just because it's tired doesn't mean it's gone.

So is this a movie about love, or is it about ambition? Never Not Love You tries to find a middle ground for both. Its narrative is built on trying to find a resolution, but never really getting one. As with most Jadaone projects, the characters try to find answers in the places where the story takes them. Whereas in La La Land, Los Angeles serves as the fantastic backdrop to the struggle between the two, here, the gloomy, overcast skies of London highlight the gloom of being away from what is comforting and familiar. Even the neon-lit streets of Makati and fluorescent glow of 7-11 visually underscores how fleeting some pleasures can be, and how joy is not always found in what is temporary.

My favorite scene highlights what I love best about the movie and the questions it dared to ask: after a long day at work, Joanne receives a video call from Gio, who is walking by the Thames River. He asks a Pinay street performer to sing Sugarfree’s “Prom” - their song - for Joanne. This isn’t the first time we hear the song in the movie, but this time, we hear it differently than the first. The characters are no longer nestled comfortably into each other’s arms, no longer racing through the road with only their helmets and each other. They are separated by time zones, in cities that hold no assurances but bustles with promise. And yet, they somehow find a way to walk to and from work together, hypothetically holding hands, engrossed in the same song. We’ve seen this before, we’ve been in this before: missing someone so badly and trying so hard to close that distance. It hit the chord right by bringing on the screen something realistic to all of us: the struggle of aspiring for dreams and the sacrifice of our loved ones to help get us there.

It’s charming how the choice of song, “Prom” is one that evokes memories of high school. Of youth. Of hopeful longing. Far from being a mere cliched rom-com vehicle, Never Not Love You is a film that explores the reality of navigating the consequences of our decisions, as young people and eventually as adults, be it out of love or out of ambition. “Matapos man ang sayaw / pangakong ‘di ka bibitaw,” so goes the closing lines of the song. This might be a bit too on the nose, but it sends the message: love is a choice. It fades, it changes. But who is to say that a weathered love is any less real?