ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE (Dan Villegas, 2014)
ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE, the new film by Dan Villegas (MAYOHAN), from a script by Antoinette Jadaone (THAT THING CALLED TADHANA, SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION FROM LILIA CUNTAPAY) benefits greatly from the onscreen chemistry of its two charming leads, who give life to the story's playfulness and sincerity.
The story is simple enough, as with most romcoms: two lovelorn individuals find each other, and what seemed like a business proposition at first may in fact turn out to be a life-altering revelation for both of them. Fil-Am Julian Parker (Derek Ramsay) goes to the Philippines so he can tell his Filipina ex (Isabel Oli) in person his message of hatred. But first, he needs to master, or at least familiarize with the Filipino language so he can maintain the high ground of their breakup. This is where Tere Madlangsacay (Jennylyn Mercado), an English tutor comes in. She agrees to translate Julian's letter and help him pronounce its translation properly, and in return Julian offers him a thousand dollars in payment.
We all know how this ends, but more important than the destination is the journey these two characters take. Aside from merely just translating for Julian, Tere takes him on a trip around the metro. She localizes him. They eat street foods, ride the jeepney, and Julian even gets to meet Tere's family back in Bulacan. At one point, the two even go cinema hopping from one theater to the next as Julian searches for his ex.
Julian is not the only one madly in love with an illusion. Tere herself is in a one-way relationship with his ex (Kean Cipriano) who she thinks will one day get back with her, but the guy clearly uses him for sexual and material benefits. And when she knocks her head on the wall, guess who's there to console her?
Then there's Tere's bestfriend Mallows (Cai Cortez), who gives unsolicited advice to Tere even though her own love life is in shambles. Men run away faster than horses at the track upon knowledge that she already has a daughter out of wedlock. Jadaone's script is interesting more so of the little ironies hidden in the subtext, but most times the irony is cleverly put into the humorous dialogue.
What I like most about ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE is that it gets the culture clash conflict right. There is a lot of hilarious material when you write about two cultures clashing, and ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE gets it about 99% of the time. Jadaone knows the common one-liners and issues people encounter on a daily basis, especially in matters of the heart, and she embeds them in her script that we feel as if Tere Madlangsacay is someone we are intimately familiar with. She feels like our best friend, our sister, and maybe even our co-worker. The lines are snappy and Jennylyn Mercado has the privilege to utter them in street-smart, witty fashion.
Those who have seen Antoinette Jadaone's previous film THAT THING CALLED TADHANA will easily spot the similarities between that and ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE. The characters are pretty much the same, perhaps reversed, and both couple embark on a life-altering physical journey. One might even say that ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE is a companion piece to TADHANA, a sort of dual he said/she said. But while TADHANA is about moving on, ENGLISH ONLY PLEASE is more about forgiveness. The film proves that the sins of the past easily affect our future, our understanding of certain ideologies such as love, commitment, and family, yet sometimes, there comes a person who will show us that our beliefs and prejudices have been terribly, terribly wrong. And in that moment, you will run out of excuses. Excuses like "Traffic sa Edsa" (It's traffic in EDSA).