'Love You to the Stars and Back' review: Love cures all
Like That Thing Called Tadhana (2014), Antoinette Jadaone's Love You to the Stars and Back relies on a very difficult proposition – that two complete strangers who serendipitously meet each other under embarrassing circumstances can become lovers just after a short period of time.
Giant leap of faith
In Tadhana's case, Anthony (JM de Guzman) offers to help distraught Mace (Angelica Panganiban) in a foreign airport. Their chance meeting will lead to an impromptu road trip to Sagada, where both of them heal each other's heartaches while quickly falling in love. In Love You to the Stars and Back, Mika (Julia Barretto) offers to bring Caloy (Joshua Garcia) to the hospital after she drives over his foot when they accidentally see each other answering nature's call.
Jadaone begs her audience for a giant leap of faith to believe that love, and not just any kind of love but the transformative and curative kind, can spring from these very random and chance encounters.
Rather than relying on the idea that the very brisk romances she conceives of are nothing but escapist fare which might be the most convenient excuse her films' too-easy premises, Jadaone peppers her films with realistic scenes of extended conversations – mostly humorous, sometimes about topics that have nothing to do with the plot, but always with the goal of enriching the chemistry and making the audience believe that quite possibly, the two strangers whose awkward initial encounters they have come to witness might really be soul mates.
Youth and verve
In Love You to the Stars and Back’s case, Jadaone maximizes her leads’ youth and verve, having them engage in swift arguments and debates that rapidly erupt into a romance that, while at first might seem too sudden, proves to be very affecting. (READ; Joshua Garcia admits to courting Julia Barretto)
Garcia, who proved to be a very capable leading man in Theodore Boborol’s Vince & Kath & James (2016), continues to be that astute actor who can add satisfying layers to his performance by gestures and line deliveries that are prompted by a mix of his intuition and a profound understanding of his character’s motivations. He can add levity to even the most dramatic of scenes, and add heft to the lightest of moments. Barretto is just as delightful here.
While there are times that Love You to the Stars and Back feels manipulative with its heavy-handed musical score and its many other efforts to induce tears from its audience, it never fails to move back to the center and be more somber, sober, and quiet.
The film does overindulge in its quirks. There are many needless details here, like the chicken that started out as a funny punch line until it evolves into an exhausting sight gag. Thankfully, Jadaone doesn’t fall into the trap of losing focus because of her many side plots and witty diversions.
Power of love
It helps that Jadaone is the kind of filmmaker who truly believes the idea her romantic films are espousing, that love cures all. In Tadhana's case, it is heartbreak. In Love You to the Stars and Back, it is grief, loss, pain, fear, and all other sorts of emotions the idea of losing a loved one may result in.
Jadaone's romances evoke a persuasive earnestness in their advocacy of the power of love, and while that might feel very frivolous in this world of many more pressing concerns, it still feels very much welcome because sincerity in art and all other things seems to be very rare nowadays. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.