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REVIEW: ‘Five Breakups and A Romance’ taps into our shared nostalgia of love and loss

By Jerald Uy Published Oct 18, 2023 4:56 pm

What makes Five Breakups and A Romance work so well is how the film navigates through our shared nostalgia.

A timeline that is easy to follow, the narrative is broken into five parts, spanning eight years, involving fashion brand manager Justine (Julia Montes) and medical student Lance (Alden Richards) whose whirlwind romance starts from a steamy hook-up in the almost utopian world of Singapore. 

Setting the “Prologue”, the first chapter in the story, in a dreamy foreign country highlights the euphoric love at the beginning of all relationships. There’s that mind-blowing sex and the charm that comes from cracking daddy jokes. But as the off-shoulder top-wearing Justine tells a lovestruck, Godzilla otaku Lance, “You won’t like the version of me in the Philippines.”

Still, her heart longs for respite, three years coming, after being cheated on by her ex, Alex. Lance makes certain his quip about “quantum entanglement” is no mere pick-up line. He hangs a piece of clothing in her cabinet to somehow tell their lives are intertwined forever. 

From the year 2015, the story then time-jumps around to a party in a posh village in 2016, a renewal of vows in 2018, a devastating pandemic in 2020, and hospital confinement in 2023, each depicting a certain season in their lives where Lance and Justine could have ended or rekindled their romance.

The story structure is a smart way to tap into the viewers’ recent memories of love and loss, reflecting how the pandemic has become a point of reference for a time in most of our journeys.

There was life before 2020. The pandemic, where all petty quarrels seemed a big deal, magnified the strength (and the weakness) of our character. Then, there is the present time, where we have embraced the fleeting nature of life and started living, for real.  

Five Breakups and A Romance is my first introduction to director and writer Irene Emma Villamor’s filmography. Her beautiful script seamlessly complements the breathtaking shots of the movie.

When I thought I had seen all video call conferencing techniques used in stories set during the pandemic, the film gives us a heartbreaking scene where the two characters only utter the word “hey” and convey a complex mix of emotions—sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, and even compassion—with only close-ups of their faces showing on their mobile phone screens. 

Not only do Alden and Julia have undeniable chemistry, but the two’s acting prowesses are also on the same wavelength.

As for its supporting cast, actor Soliman Cruz gets the funniest lines which balance out what could have been a heavy, melancholic drama. The scoring is also mesmerizing, capping with a cover of Ben&Ben song Leaves by Kenji. 

In the same vein as the affecting Korean-American film Past Lives and Japanese series First Love, Five Breakups and A Romance leaves you with enough to gather for introspection. Justine and Lance’s life together speaks to the audiences who have gone through questions of “What if?”, “What is?”, and “What’s next?”

Five Breakups and A Romance is showing in Philippine cinemas starting Wednesday, Oct. 18.