Having seen "Ploning", the movie that shared playdate with 'When Love Begins", I am ready to make a comparison of the two films.
It is hard to make a fair assessment of the films based on box-office performance even just within the SM City theaters here in Lucena City. I went to see "When Love Begins" on May 1, a national holiday, so obviously there are more people that had the time to watch. It wasn't SRO but I can say "FULL". When I went to see "Ploning" the next day, there were only about 20 people in the theater that could hold around 500 people.
The two films starred two popular Filipina stars set apart by a 7 year age difference and a totally opposite kind of beauty .Ann Curtis or Mich, is a stunning mestiza beauty, Judy Ann or Ploning, is very "Filipina" in her looks. Their respective roles in their movies aptly fit their outward personalities. Both films do not only differentiate the two female stars but Filipino women in general.
The movie setting is another opposite here. Ann's character dwells in ritzy places ~she works in
a corporate atmosphere where everyday clothes are the clothes you see in fashion pages. She conducts business with corporate executives and deals with multi-million peso projects. Amusements are in the form of drinking out with friends, disco-dancing in Manila and Boracay, dressed in scanty beach clothes. There is that air of being carefree and liberated in everything that she does. Judy Ann's character, on the other hand, lives among the common, ordinary, rural folks-- in a fishing village. For work, she helps in manually processing cashew (kasoy) nuts~ extracting the nuts using an improvised cutting tool together with the village women--dressed in clothes not even the housemaids in Manila would be seen wearing--but the type that typical rural womenfolk would. Set in a typical far-flung rural community where everyone's dream is to see Manila. Judy Ann's family, though obviously better off than most families there, is still very traditional and conservative. Lifestyle-wise, the movies showed the two faces of rural and urban living. As I jokingly put it when a friend asked me to compare, I said : "Ploning is the beach for the poor and When Love Begins is the beach for the rich" (beach na pang mahirap, beach na pang-mayaman, ahhh--don't mind me, just trying to put humor into it! )
The story. "When Love Begins" is the current common way of thinking of many Filipinos today who live in more modern places. Modern mentality, modern outlook. modern values but still with an attempt to bring in traditional family values. Ploning is the way the Philippines was many years ago-- untouched by modernization, family -oriented, timid, hardworking and sacrificing women--but also with an attempt to bring in a concept of being modern -- there 's a barrio lass character studying to become a nurse, trying to bring in modern ideas about health and other things into the barrio--and striving to be "different" from the regular womenfolk.
While "when love begins" is very predictable -- environmental activist boyfriend + the girlfriend's subdivision developer/magnate dad = conflict. Weaving your way through the end of the story was just a boring trip and just a toss between are they gonna end up together or NOT-- can't hope for any other twist. Ploning, on the other hand is a "mystery" throughout. You pick up clues along the way. If you take note of "dream shots", the screen suddenly turning hazy --"as if in a dream", then you know you are being taken somewhere back in time. The past and the present being woven together, it needs presence of mind to watch Ploning. When Love Begins just takes some bit of appreciation for the nice, eye candy shots -- you'll never get lost. In Ploning, you need to think some to put two and two together and not get five. The connection between the lychee, the white dress, the stickman drawing, the brown "stone"...until all pieces of the puzzle come together and create the big picture.
Like I said , the two movies depict the difference between two types of Filipino women that lived in generations that are so far apart. The modern "pinay" is characterized by a distinct sense of being liberated -- in the way she carries herself, in the way she relates to family and friends, in the way she acts in a relationship with a man. The conservative "pinay" is conservative all the way -- in everything--most distinctly, in her relationship with a man to whom she remained totally faithful till her last breath. She loved in silence, she suffered in silence, she passed away in silence bringing to her grave the secret surrounding her faithfulness to that love.
No question about the difference in the depth of the two movies. Depth that lent to the tag "boring". Of course it is subjective. What is boring to one person may not be to another. Listen to the music in both movies~~ bouncy/jumpy/disco music (with the exception of the movie theme, a version of Randy Crawford's "One Hello") versus the dreamy, soothing music in Ploning with lyrics written in the Cuyunon dialect. There's the hint of coming in contact with a piece of Filipino culture in the Palawan islands.
Me, I liked "Ploning", simply because it made me "think" and appreciate a part of Filipino culture that I do not know. I see "When Love Begins" everyday -- on TV, in the present real life and it did not offer me anything that I do not know yet.
Footnote: Very impressive characterization by the cast of Ploning -- speaking in the Cuyunon dialect all throughout - it sure took extra effort to deliver the lines in another dialect -- not just the different words, but intonation as well. I'm sure it felt like learning a new language. There are hints of awkwardness and imperfect tone compared to the native dialect speakers also cast in the movie. But over-all, they did well.