‘Unexpectedly Yours’ and ‘Wonder’—films for the heart and soul
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. In the case of Sharon Cuneta and Robin Padilla’s reunion film “Unexpectedly Yours,” that fondness is clearly and cleverly mined by director Cathy Garcia-Molina with heartwarming astuteness. It makes the romantic sparks between the former screen sweethearts fly again.
Not that Sharon and Robin need a lot of help from Direk Cathy—because their chemistry is as potent as ever, as the blockbuster film effortlessly demonstrates. But giving their characters a shared past and a plausible story that plays well to their iconic personalities and strengths as actors doesn’t hurt.
Patty Gonzales (Sharon, who’s at her self-effacing best) just turned 50. But, the lovely but lonely separada is “not in a very good place”—her romantic life and career are all tangled up.
She can’t get along well with her younger officemates, but the situation on the home front is just as gloomy: Patty doesn’t know how to communicate with her 21-year-old-daughter, Yanni (the proficient Julia Barretto).
It doesn’t help that she’s “horizontally challenged”—and her domineering mom Catalina (the gorgeous Pilar Pilapil, a formidable “agitator”) never lets her hear the end of it. She makes her onerous situation increasingly miserable every time she lets her serial-polygamist ex-husband (John Estrada) come home when his fleeting trysts with other women go pfft.
Needless to say, Patty’s self-esteem is at its lowest. So, smarting from the pain of serial rejection, she “barks” her frustrations in life away.
Enter Patty’s go-getting former schoolmate Cocoy Manlangit (Robin, in his most “natural” performance to date), a seaman who’s been carrying a torch for Patty for 35 years. As rom-com fate would have it, their impending high-school reunion makes their separate paths cross again.
Cocoy’s “partner in crime” is his eager-beaver nephew Jason (Joshua Garcia, in a likable but largely decorative role), who has been Yanni’s long-time secret admirer and social-media lurker for some time now.
Cocoy may not have the dashing sophistication of Patty’s former hubby, but his catchy optimism and rough-around-the-edges charm usher in a new lease on Patty’s sterile romantic life. His unfiltered affection and attention provide a surprising burst of sunshine that gives the film’s beleaguered heroine enough elbow room to “breathe” again and see things in a more positive light.
The movie skillfully taps into Sharon’s recent “poor-little-rich-girl” woes by giving her a “believable and relatable” character she can inhabit without too much thespic stretching.
But, that doesn’t make Sharon’s disarming turn less worthy of acclaim.
While it’s true that Direk Cathy puts Sharon and Robin’s crowd-drawing appeal to wise use with an appropriately “maturing” twist, it is nevertheless the Megastar’s heart-on-her-sleeve portrayal that allows the predictable rom-com to eventually find its soul—and makes the production’s disparate elements converge and coalesce.
Reassuring cinematic balm
Even more gratifying than “Unexpectedly Yours” is the Julia Roberts-Owen Wilson starrer, “Wonder.”
Director Stephen Chbosky’s feel-good drama is a must-see, not only because of the emotional catharsis and alluring life lessons it offers, but also because it works like a reassuring balm for the many troubled souls in our midst.
So, here’s a helpful tip: Bring your hanky with you before you make a beeline for the box office.
“Wonder” is easily the year’s most satisfying feel-good family drama. It revolves around fifth-grader August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a facially disfigured boy who attends school for the first time.
It’s also about the all-encompassing love of his mom Isabel (Julia), dad Nate (Owen), older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) and old pooch Daisy that help Auggie get through the cruelty of a world that doesn’t know better.
The film initially plays out like a “black-and-white” depiction of how a straightforward tale predictably moves through its paces. But, it quickly shifts gears as soon as it’s done showing Auggie’s perspective.
Thereafter, different points of view beautifully come to light and merge as we see how Auggie’s family, bosom buddy Jack (Noah Jupe), and Via’s estranged best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) cope with his troubles—and their own.
It’s a heartwarming portrait of a community coming to terms with the differences and diversity that always threaten to break it apart. But, it also tugs at viewers’ heartstrings as it dispenses lessons on compassion, empathy and acceptance.
“Wonder” lives up to its empowering battle cry for people who can’t see the angels looking after them: “You can’t blend in when you’re born to stand out.”
And, nope, you can’t leave the theater without wanting to heed its soul-reinvigorating request: When given a choice between right and kind—choose kind.
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