I'M DRUNK, I LOVE YOU (JP Habac, 2017)

Familiar romcom elements abound in JP Habac's feature-length debut "I'm Drunk, I Love You." There's the road trip, the beach, drinking (lots of it), a best friend/confidante/wingman and yes, unrequited love. However, the film treads rather dangerously on familiarity that it misses being a full-blown mainstream fare by only several inches. 

Co-written with Giancarlo Abrahan (Dagitab), "I'm Drunk, I Love You" centers on Carson (Maja Salvador) and her seven-year hell being best friend to Dio (Paulo Avelino). Carson likes Dio a lot, and for seven years she harbored her secret feelings for him. Jason Ty (Dominic Roco), Carson's other best friend is the only other human in the know of such intentions. 

The film opens days before both Carson and Dio graduate from college. Dio takes Carson and Jason Ty on an impromptu trip to La Union province for a music festival, with the two unaware of what lies ahead.

Enter Pathy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), Dio's sophisticated ex who recently turned vegan, much to Carson and Jason Ty's dismay. One of the reasons the pair took up Dio's invitation to La Union is to eat bagnet, or crispy fried pork belly, and Pathy's presence jeopardizes that goal. 

The entire La Union sequence has been Carson's platform to finally tell Dio of her true feelings for him, and we sit in both delight and anticipation how Carson will break the news. Nevertheless, Habac begins his conflict early, sprinkling brief moments of Carson's near-admission, most of which are funny.

What I liked most about the film is that though we may already guess how it ends, the journey is worth the time. In fact, the journey IS the point. The talkative first half transitions to a mostly silent second half, especially after Carson's admission. The mood shift matches the emotions of the characters, and is consistent until the end. In one particular scene, Carson refuses to accommodate Dio's condescension post-admission, heading straight to the beach, where she sits on the sand and eats her bagnet, that sinfully dangerous but irresistible piece of meat. She doesn't care anymore, heart attack be damned. After all, death by bagnet seems like a proper sendoff. Not that Carson dies. Nope, this is not that kind of movie.

The film features an impressive soundtrack comprised of tracks from Ang Bandang Shirley, 3D, Cynthia Alexander and Juan Miguel Severo, among others. The song lyrics fill in what the characters cannot directly say to each other.

Aside from bagnet, the film makes use of several metaphors, such as the Butterball candy representing familiarity and comfort, and Pathy being vegan representing safety, or playing it safe. Of course, these could very well be over interpretations.

I do have a slight spot of unease though. For a film that spends much of its time at the beach, we never see the main characters get wet. Dio emerges from the shower in one scene, but that doesn't count.

Also, if Carson is unaware of Pathy's existence, then perhaps she and Dio aren't as close as she thinks?

As Carson, Maja Salvador embraces her role with equal doses camp and introspection. "I'm Drunk, I Love You" is Maja's film from start to finish; it simply won't work without her. Maja's best scene is arguably the drinking game, where her character descends further and further into drunkenness in a long, uninterrupted take. 

No, "I'm Drunk, I Love You" isn't your traditional romcom, because it is more concerned in exploring the facets of friendship rather than love. The film captures the feeling of unrequited love and the struggle of choosing between preserving the friendship and risking it. Luckily, Carson and Dio prove to be the adults that they are. 

Rating: 4/5    



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