Let me begin by saying that my rating for this film is for Piolo Pascual alone, he who lights up my eyes, fills my world with unicorn and rainbows, and makes my life generally better. Lol.
Well, now that that is out of the way…
The plot: two exes, Ginny (Toni Gonzaga), an architecture student, and Marco (Piolo Pascual), a history professor, see each other again after close to 5 years.
The film works its way backwards, which I initially found tedious. It wasn’t until the middle of the film when the magic happened for me: I think I may have watched the smartest breakup scene in a local film. (Granted, I haven’t seen a lot.) Malalim. The storytelling, the actors, the dialogue, the non-verbal cues (I stress the last part; it seems the film works best when there is little dialogue exchanged), the reason for their breakup—all were perfect, save for one quibble that I have: of course, here’s another breakup scene in the rain. (However, with Piolo’s wet shirt clinging on each of his finely chiseled six-pack, director Olivia Lamasan, who shares the writing credit with Carmi Raymundo, is more than forgiven.)
It’s commendable how Lamasan and Raymundo unraveled both sides of the breakup story in an inspired series of flashbacks—the defense for both parties were so compelling, viewers would find it hard to pick sides.
In her interview on Gandang Gabi Vice, Toni shared that she initially questioned Lamasan about her character: no woman could be as desperate as Ginny. (“May mga babaeng naghahabol ba talaga?” asks the beautiful actress.) Toni’s excellent acting betrays her own doubts: Ginny practically spits on Toni, especially in that pivotal scene with Patty (Iza Calzado), Marco’s present girlfriend. Any another actress would have probably made Ginny look like the town whore, but Toni gives the character its decency and pride. Hence, (spoiler alert; select with mouse to view): her confrontation scene with Iza, came without warning: it was desperate, daring, and unexpected, and I loved it.
Iza’s understated acting as sweet Patty was brilliant: she forces a smile, maintains a steady voice, and yet tears roll down her cheeks. Her lines and delivery were laced with subtlety, it was hard to tell if she was still being nice or if her claws were already out. I like a script that gives viewers room for interpretation.
Piolo has already proven himself an astute actor—and here, he gives yet another solid performance. His beauty practically overshadows those he shares the screen with, and somehow Lamasan manages to draw out his vulnerability, and the actor delivers.
Starting Over Again is far from perfect. It could have been one, but Lamasan and Raymundo overcompensate with the dialogue by explaining way too many things.
There were dialogues that ran for what felt like 5 minutes. I like a long repartee (reference: Woody Allen), but here, they were wordy and trite, and the Tagalog, formal and literal (e.g., those cooking/baking metaphors). By now, you would have memorized the line from the film’s trailer: “I need an explanation… I need an acceptable reason,” and true enough, the actors compensate for their characters by rationalizing their motives in detail*. Again, I like a script that gives viewers room for interpretation.
Stretching two hours long, the film could have also done away with several scenes: Piolo didn’t need to be a history professor (which only raised questions on the propriety of the relationship); there needn’t be a website, which allowed users to schedule the delivery of a letter sometime in the future (just explaining how it works was tedious for the characters); and—spoiler alert—there needn’t be a scaffolding accident (poorly executed, it had us in stitches). An unforgiving and creative editor could’ve easily simplified these convoluted subplots, and made this film perfect, since it already had the perfect cast.
The film concludes with a veritable and satisfying ending, though I have my misgivings about how it pandered to the masses. Also, current events made it a little creepy for my taste.
It’s interesting that the movie makes a huge point in defending baking as a science—in which ingredients are prepared to their exact measurement—versus the sinigang, a broth created with a hodgepodge of spices and vegetables, all subject to taste. You’d think Starting Over Again would have picked up on that.
Recommendation: Go out and watch.
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*Now, I will digress a bit here. I think this is a Pinoy thing, how we—for I am guilty of this myself—tend to explain everything in detail. (Which also probably explains why we don’t get satire.) Just consider this synopsis taken from the film’s official website: it practically gives out the entire film, save for the ending, so again I’m hiding it in white font. (Select with your mouse to view.)
Ten years ago, Ginny (Toni Gonzaga), an Architecture student, and Marco (Piolo Pascual), a History professor, began a one-of-a-kind and unpredictable love story. In the five years that they were together, they brought out the best in each other, which included Marco’s unrealized dream of becoming a chef. Together, they worked towards their dream of opening up a restaurant, but when Ginny realized her own pursuits were different from his, she rejected his wedding proposal and left the country for a Masters degree in Architecture. At present, Ginny co-owns a one-stop Architecture and Interior Design firm specializing in Restoration. She receives an email from Marco, which was written and sent after their break-up, meant to be read four years later. It makes her feel even more regretful of leaving the love of her life. When their firm receives an offer to restore an old house into a restaurant, she is ecstatic to learn that Marco will be co-owning the restaurant. She takes this as a sign that this will be their second chance they need, but finds out that Marco wants the restaurant ready for his wedding proposal to his US-based girlfriend, Patty De Guia (Iza Calzado). This doesn’t stop Ginny from accepting the project in the hopes of winning back Marco, now very different from the man he used to be. When he learns her motives, he plays along to push her regrets and show that he is much better now. But their actions take a toll on them when they talk about the past, feelings start to get involved, and Patty begins to get suspicions about the two. Can mistakes and wrong decisions be undone to give way to a second chance? Will Ginny get her happy ending with Marco, or is she four years too later?