I really like how pluggedin.com does their reviews of movies. Though I cannot be completely objective about the film, I think this approach of just laying it all to see what the movie is about, at least what I retain in memory, helps in evaluating it vis-a-vis real life.

Movie: English Only, Please
Genre: Romantic, Comedy

Overview:
Tere is an English tutor who gets hired by Julian, an “amboy” who goes to the Philippines for closure from his breakup with Megan, a Filipina whom he met in New York. We don’t know how recent this breakup is but we know that Julian is crushed as reflected in the letter he wrote for Megan. This is the reason why he hires Tere in the first place – to translate a breakup letter from English to Filipino to drive the point harder. There begins their relationship from tutor-tutee to friends to lovers. We discover along the way that Tere is no stranger to relationship problems herself. She plays the sugar mommy to Rico, an ex-boyfriend who she woes back to her by casual sexual meetups and lavish gadget gifts. Other characters in the movie include Mallows, Tere’s best friend who has a lot of short-term dates with men who quickly run away upon knowing about Mallows’ daughter. We also get acquainted with Tere’s family in Bulacan: her mother, brother with his wife and son; and another man whom we are not told if he is sibling or cousin. We also get glimpses of Tere’s English tutoring job to three of her students: two Koreans: a boy practicing for an oratorical contest, and a teenage girl who cahoodles with her boyfriend most of the time, and a Filipina who is practicing her English to meet her expat lover.

Violence:

Tere translates the letter to the colloquial where threats to have her beaten by the drunkards in the corner of their street are made.

In a game of checkers, Julian unknowingly threatens his drunk competitor. We don’t see actual punches exchanged but we see him holding a bag of ice on his face in the next scene.

Spirituality:

There is no talk of God in the movie but idols of the Sto. Nino are seen in Tere’s living room.

Drugs and Alcohol:

An applicant being interviewed by Julian online included a young and attractive woman who utters, “pa-shoot lang!” which connotes drug use.

Tere drinks rhum alone at her house as a means to recover from a heartbreak.

Julian drinks beer with Tere’s relatives, and with Tere while in the poolside.

Tere’s neighbors include a bunch of drunks in the corner.

Sexuality:

Though there are no sex scenes but the movie is teeming with sexual references.

In the beginning of the movie, one of the applicants is a cross-dressed man who makes flirty facial guestures to Julian.

The drug-using woman applicant also sends flirty, sexual, non-verbal cues to the audience.

Rico and Tere are seen in motels 3 times in this movie. The first is where they end up seen in bed together, covered by the white sheets. The second where they share a meal but with Rico moving to the bed motioning for Tere as the “dessert”. The third is in the disco-themed room where Rico leans in to kiss Tere saying the same “line” referring to sex as “dessert time.” Tere says the words “sex lang ang habol mo sa akin,” (you’re only after sex with me).

Mallows mentions Tinder, the dating application on smartphones today.

Mallows is seen in a karaoke bar with a guy who is caressing her. No kiss is seen but the comedic innuendo of her raising her legs is applied.

Mallows retells her story which includes having sex at the age of 20 and getting pregnant.

Tere imagines a swimming scene with Julian where she is wearing a one-piece suit but with a style that includes fashionable cuts in the middle.

A guy takes off his shirt in front of Tere. Julian shows off his abs.

Tere and Julian share a short kiss and some hugs in the latter part of the movie.

Conclusion:
The movie’s core message is that love is something that makes one stupid and that everyone who loves another person accepts this stupidity especially if the other person is the “right” person. The movie says that this love is something worth looking for, worth waiting for and that someday, someone will be this person to you.

My personal thoughts:
This movie garners so much praise from the FIlipino audience, getting awards and recognitions in many aspects. I understand why. It was my first and immediate reaction. But looking back and reflecting on it gave me other thoughts.

While applause should be given for the movie’s non-conformity to typical Filipino romantic comedies with its engaging screenplay and attention to details, I’m afraid the movie takes a wrong turn with the values it promotes. Sure, it’s honest about how the Philippines is today… and there may be something commendable about that honesty. Indeed, in Manila (the city I live in and the main setting of the movie), sex is no longer taboo, sex is happening between non-married Filipino young adults. It may be an open topic in barkada reunions but it has never been the subject of many mainstream local media in the way “English Only Please” addresses it.

But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. I believe that God, who created human beings and designed us with the capacity for sex, frowns on this mindset. I know that he designed it to be performed by a married man to his wife. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it acceptable.

There is a danger with “transparency” in today’s media. Open discussion of things that used to be hidden oftentimes removes the shame they deserve. This removal of shame creates an environment that promotes and perhaps even encourages the performance of wrongdoing. How did we become a breed of human beings who celebrate what is sinful? We may rationalize with phrases like, “Everyone makes mistakes,” “we’re only human,” “we’re born this way,” yet they do not change the truth that sin — consciously or unconsciously choosing it, leads to pain, to destruction, to death. For lack of a better illustration, I use the common phrase: “Put lipstick on a pig… it’s still a pig”.

Clearly, we see in the movie and in the lives of many people lost in lust, that physical intimacy with someone who is not your husband or wife leads to pain and a lot of regret. Let’s not deny it. The movie was honest about this, too. Mallows got pregnant and has deep pain in her heart. She acts like a teenager as she tries to look for love in men she hardly knows. Tere will not have experienced such angering pain if not for the fact that she gave her all. Heck, I think she would not have been so blind to that guy’s abuse of her if she had not given herself to him. She even shares a story that her idea of love is what stopped her from being a nurse.

Real love does not involve shortcuts. Real love is not easy. Here’s the harder truth to accept: real love cannot be found in this world. No human being will be able to love another human being in a way that human beings long to be loved; because I believe real love is supernatural, it is out-of-this-world, it is beyond human capacity. Only God could give this love.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. ” 1 John 4:7-9 (NASB)

He is the perfect example: God gave up his only son — His ONLY Son — so that the people He loves would live and know that He loves them.

I’m not saying that we should stop being honest about what’s going on. In fact, I think we should be thankful for the ability to recognize these things. What I’m saying is that we should be careful about how we interpret others’ acceptance of ourselves despite it. We should be careful about how we interpret grace. Grace should not let us forget the horrid stench of our sin. In fact, grace should magnify it.

This is what the movie lacked, in my opinion. It lacked God and His values, and for that, I’m not sure I’ll enjoy it the next time I see it on local TV.

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