REVIEW | ‘Can We Still Be Friends?’ strikes the right balance between formula and realness

June 20, 2017 - 6:20 PM
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Arci Munoz and Gerald Anderson in 'Can We Still Be Friends?'

There is no question that Star Cinema has a winning formula for their films. They have the stars and the machinery to deliver blockbuster after blockbuster.

But a formula is still a formula, and there’s a clamor for new stories and storytelling as can be seen from the growing popularity of films from the indie scene.

Lately, Star Cinema has been tweaking its formula, and this latest release, “Can We Still Be Friends?”, is several important steps in the right direction.

Prime Cruz’s mainstream directorial debut is a slow burn that explores the emotional rollercoaster of feelings of a couple who have been together for eight years.

Sam (Arci Munoz) and Diego (Gerard Anderson) have reached the point in a relationship where “familiarity breeds contempt.” Director Prime Cruz is unafraid to unfold the story slowly. He capitalizes on the explosive chemistry of Munoz and Anderson, knowing that people would be glued to the screen just watching their relationship deteriorate before our eyes.

It takes a whole hour before the story hits its midpoint when Sam and Diego break up and the title’s premise comes into play. But Cruz’s measured direction is in full control of the pacing and never once does the film drag or get tedious.

Every scene prior to the midpoint is essential to the film as a whole and the build-up brings us to a satisfying climax.

There are many instances in “Can We Still Be Friends?” that breaks the usual tropes that pepper romantic comedies.

The flaws of the lead characters are not extraordinary cutesy quirks but real deep-seated human issues and failings. Instead of mining these issues for comedic effect, the film pushes the characters head-first into the dark corners of the choices we make when we are at our weakest.

Prime Cruz pushes the boundaries of the romantic comedy by truly getting down and dirty into the dark spaces of the character’s choices while still keeping the tone light.

Arci Munoz and Gerard Anderson deliver very strong performances and are unafraid to get really vulnerable, which brings you closer to their characters. Their chemistry alone is worth the price of admission, but the director doesn’t leave the success of the movie solely on their shoulders.

Precise direction, a wonderfully dynamic score by Emerzon Texon, and a strong supporting cast (with special mention for Brian Matthew Sy) make this film an enjoyable movie that truly keeps you guessing. Throughout the whole film, I was wondering how it would end. For a romantic comedy that’s quite a feat. Because don’t we always expect it to end well?

The unexpected is what keeps a movie from being boring. It’s always the danger when working with formula. The way “Can We Still Be Friends?” balances out comedy and drama, realness and staged moments, will get you invested in this story and these characters. The film has its gimmicks but it has so much more to offer.