REVIEW | ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ brings out the authentic DJ

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Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo in new rom-com. (Image: screenshot from the official trailer).

Star Cinema this time picked Elvis Presley’s pop ballad as the title of the new KathNiel rom-com: “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” And fans will undoubtedly fall in love all over again with Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo—proof of which was the girl who sat next to me in the movie house; she was literally falling off her seat, possessed with overpowering kilig. Her friend, on the other hand, kept wiping away tears of mirth and giddiness.

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When Dos (Padilla) sees Gab (Bernardo) for the first time, he is instantly love-struck.  Soon, the two strangers end up at a wild party—and, in their drunken stupor, get married right on the spot. The secret, heady night is erased and forgotten—until one year later when Gab is about to get married to her trophy boyfriend of six years, Jason (Matteo Guidicelli), and desperately rushes to get annulled from Dos. While the two go through the process of voiding their marriage, can they resist falling in love with each other? Of course not.

Director Mae Cruz-Alviar directs a surprisingly digestible cheesy romantic fare. Even non-fans, such as myself, will be engaged with the occasional smile and chuckle. What makes this romantic comedy work is its candid, playful narrative. It’s not trying to pretend that it can transcend the Star Cinema formula; instead, it focuses on a simple story with a strong conflict that highlights the chemistry between its two stars.

The movie made the clever decision to get Padilla and Bernardo to be their most authentic selves—especially Padilla, who most of the time feels like he isn’t acting out from a script. His smile, flirtations, and dynamics with Bernardo feel natural, hence easily connecting to the romantic audience.

The stars look awfully young, but seem suited enough for their roles. Unlike in their previous horrendously bad movie “Barcelona: A Life Untold,” Padilla—who seems to be fresh out of puberty—looks more like Bernardo’s little brother.  Here, his character is custom-fit to his young, carefree, devil-may-care attitude.  His Dos is a young guy truly in love, pleasant, and lives a life of gratitude, which makes him likeable.

Cruz-Alviar’s pacing is natural, and she knows how to frame emotional scenes where silence speaks volumes, the subtleties are felt, and the actors are more relaxed in being themselves. She also knows how to keep her actors restrained, avoiding histrionics and mawkishness.  Cherry Pie Picache as Bernardo’s mother is also a joy to watch, exuding buoyancy and infectious happiness.

“Can’t Help Falling in Love” may have some cringingly corny scenes but they are compensated by its many sparkling moments. Overall, it’s still a juvenile, semi-unbelievable love story, but its light, unpretentious, exuberant storytelling that hinges on the stars’ natural chemistry, makes it fun and entertaining. Fans won’t be able to help falling in love.

CNC Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Opens April 15 in Philippine cinemas

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