Reel talk: on recycled kilig and local romcom tropes

Art by Jea Gaviña

It’s no secret: Filipino films are pretty formulaic in nature, especially when we’re talking about romantic comedies. Writers, directors, and producers strive to make each story different despite following, more or less, the same structures. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t — nonetheless, hordes of us flock to our local cinemas to watch the latest fictional romance unfold anyway.

Even though we roll our eyes at the mention of the latest songbook-classic-turned-movie-title and criticize the hell out of every single love team, we still love a healthy helping of our favorite tropes, rehashed in as many ways as possible. We love what’s familiar, what’s relatable. And, in any case, recycled kilig is kilig all the same.

From bestie to bufra real quick

Actually, that’s pretty inaccurate. The transition from best friends to lovers is never really easy — not even in the movies. This classic story arc usually has one character pining over the Other for years and doing everything in service of the seemingly uninterested Other. It takes some sort of huge disappointment from a long-time crush as in Close To You, a definite break-up and a well-crafted montage such as in Paano Na Kaya?, the appearance of a wildcard character like in Labs Kita, Okey Ka Lang?, or a night of intoxicated honesty like in I’m Drunk I Love You for everyone’s real feelings to surface. Even then, we aren’t really guaranteed a happy ending outside the friendzone — the confession is always the climax, never the denouement.

BONUS: Kung Ako Na Lang Sana is also a tale from the friendzone but it plays the trope a little differently by keeping things platonic almost all the way, but with the possibility of romance always alive and burning. ‘Yan tayo eh, mahilig umasa.

Across all classes and boundaries

‘Round these parts, we love using the rich-versus-poor dichotomy in every local good-versus- evil story. In a slightly less obvious way, class plays a big role in many of our favorite local romcoms. Here, class doesn’t dictate morality but it seems to be one of the easiest ways to show how two characters (possible love interests, at that) come from starkly different worlds. More often than not, this trope is played out through bosses and their employees. We’ve seen secretaries and CEOs turn into lovers and special projects bloom into an excuse for romance way too many times on the big screen. English Only, Please, Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo, and Basta’t Kasama Kita (the unique case of a princess-turned-maid and jeepney driver combo!) are just some of the most notable samples of this weird attraction we have towards crossing work boundaries. I mean, think about it: A Very Special Love made an entire trilogy out of this premise.

Good girl meets bad boy

The idea that a girl can save a guy from himself is a little bit toxic and more than a little bit sexist; yet, it persists to be one of the most common romcom tropes all around. Some hardworking, humble, simple (and usually promdi) chick shows up in a Classic Bad Boy™’s life to turn it around and solve all his problems — because, of course, only she can see him for what he really is: a diamond in the rough. The road to building Boy 2.0 is often long and bumpy but, man, do we love a good redemption story! Think: She’s Dating the Gangster, Never Not Love You, Talk Back and You’re Dead, and All About Love.

Full-on fantasies

In what world do people really meet through random stones with wistful confessions written on them? Does being a perennial bridesmaid really get you noticed by an insanely cute wedding photographer? Do hitchhikers even really exist in this country and would some girl driving alone really be willing to pick one up? None of these situations seem realistically plausible, and yet we fall for fantastical meeting circumstances over and over again. We’re suckers for films with unlikely beginnings from My First Romance’s Two Hearts chapter (the ex of your transplant donor, really?) to That Thing Called Tadhana (who even talks in a bus?). The less probable, the better. Plus points for you if you recognized those first three film references.

Family rivalries

As a culture known for close family relations, we like drumming up in-family drama. The trope has lived on throughout the years through classic sibling rivalries that would give The Kissing Booth a run for its money. From 2005’s Dubai to 2018’s Ang Babaeng Allergic sa WiFi; even the innovative indie fave Sana Dati plays with this trope a bit, creating tension between Andrea (Lovi Poe) and her dead ex-lover’s brother (Paulo Avelino). Perhaps one of the most interesting examples of the in-family rivalry, though, is seen in The Mistress. Imagine sharing the same partner as your father. Scandalous!

Tags:
#family #friendship #love #movies #tv

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