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‘Gameboys the Movie’: A story of love and friendship amid a pandemic

By Johanna Añes-de la Cruz, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 05, 2021 7:35 pm

Much to the delight of fans here and abroad, the wildly popular boys love (BL) series now has its first spinoff film, Gameboys the Movie, which premiered on July 30 on digital cinema platforms KTX and Ticket2Me.

Kokoy de Santos and Elijah Canlas, who both delivered highly acclaimed performances as Gavreel and Cairo respectively in the series, return with their tender yet powerful, incandescent yet profound portrayals of a young, same-sex couple who navigate their way deeper into their fledgling relationship.

Of course, the whole experience would not be complete without their equally charismatic friends including fan-favorite Pearl (played with so much fabulousness by Adrianna So), Terrence (Kyle Velino), Wesley (Miggy Jimenez), and Achilles (Kych Minemoto).

The movie promised it would be bolder than the series, and it delivered. Fans are going to be satisfied but they will be left wanting for the second season to drop the soonest.

Unexpected success

Gavreel and Cairo are back in Gameboys the Movie.  Photos from IdeaFirst

Widely considered the first hit BL series of the Philippines, Gameboys also blazed the trail for other productions of the same genre. The series, which had a no-frills premiere on YouTube, took viewers by storm and became one of the unexpected hits of 2020. It proved so popular that by 2021, it was picked up by Netflix and GMA’s Heart of Asia channel, and has steadily built a loyal global following with nearly 25% of its fan base residing outside the Philippines—particularly in the US, Latin America, and Europe.

Gameboys the Movie is just as heartfelt and heartwarming—and just as popular with KTX touting it as its biggest opening so far, while Ticket2Me reported that it is their fastest-selling title to date. The second season has already finished production, but release date has yet to be announced.

Undeniable chemistry off- and on-cam

Part of the potent charm of the Gameboys series is the effortless and undeniable chemistry between and among all the actors, not just the leads. The relationships, be it romantic, familial, or platonic, seem real and uncontrived.

When asked about how they made such electric chemistry possible, De Santos said that it all boils down to how much you believe in the character you are portraying and how much you trust your co-actor, “‘Yung sikreto sa tingin ko, yung truth sa character at naniniwala tayo dun sa ginagampanan natin at siyempre naniniwala tayo sa kaeksena natin. Sobra ang tiwala ko dito kay Elijah hindi lang bilang aktor ngunit bilang isang tao.”

A scene from Gameboys the Movie. 

Canlas added that their commitment to their roles and openness to their fellow actors are crucial in making their portrayals believable, “Hindi talaga siya magwowork kapag hindi kayo magkakasundo ng kaeksena mo. From Day 1 pa lang, open na ang buong cast with each other. even off-cam, sobrang genuine talaga ng relationships naming lahat.”

He also gives credit to scriptwriter Ash Malanum’s material, “‘Yung script pa lang ni Ash nakakakilig na binabasa pa lang namin. The least we could do is justify it.”

Meanwhile, Velino, who also gets his own “kilig” moments with fellow actor Jimenez in the movie, said that the chemistry is also largely based on the fans’ reactions, “Feeling ko nasa fans na rin talaga eh kung makikita ba nilang may something, may magic. Yun ‘yung mahirap, kasi siyempre kaming mga artista, ‘yung pressure sa amin eh magugustuhan kaya ‘yung ginawa natin, ano kaya magiging reaction nila? Kikiligin kaya sila?”

Jimenez added that they had fun while doing the series and the movie, and this made work so much easier, “We were having fun doing it. Napakagaan gawin ang trabaho kasi masaya kami. Hindi lang ang cast ngunit ang buong Gameboys family.”

Love in the time of lockdowns

It was the COVID-19 pandemic, and the strangeness it brought to our lives, which led to the creation of Gameboys. Executive Producer and Director Perci M. Intalan shared that without the pandemic, there would have been no Gameboys, “Kung walang pandemic, we will be able to tell a BL story, we will be able to tell a love story. I’m sure maganda rin ang kwentong yun, pero it’s going to be very different from Gameboys.”

As those who have watched the series already know, the story revolves around two young men, Cairo and Gavreel, who are both into live streamed computer games and who find each other with the game that they both love during lockdown. Slowly, a romantic relationship blossoms between the two even before they physically meet.

In the movie, the two boys finally find themselves together, under the same roof no less, but still within the context of a pandemic and with more complicated issues trying to force their budding relationship apart.

Gameboys the Movie poster.

More than being the context of the story, So said the pandemic brought the whole production team closer, “Gameboys talaga ang nagsave sa aming lahat. Kaya makikita mo talaga na raw ang bonding ng mga boys and the whole cast and staff. Kaya nung nagkasama sama na kami for the movie, iba talaga ‘yung impact ng emotions”

Intalan shared that part of the reason why Gameboys was such a hit was because viewers can relate to what the characters were going through at this very specific point in our lives. “Pandemic ‘yung milieu ng Gameboys. Sa pandemic naging resonant ‘yung mensahe na you can be very isolated, very lonely, pero you can still find love.”

From the Philippines to Japan and beyond

Reception for Gameboys has been remarkable for both the series and the movie, with the former winning numerous awards around the world. To further expand its international reach, the production teamed up with Japanese companies.

108 JAPAN will be leading international sales and distribution outside the Philippines while co-producers Aeon Entertainment Co., Ltd. and Hakuhodo DY Music & Pictures Inc. will lead the theatrical distribution and digital and home entertainment distribution in Japan, where BL stories have always proven to be popular.

A love letter to the LGBT community, fans

The cast and crew of Gameboys are still reeling from the overwhelming success of their projects. They consider the massive support of their fans as a huge driving force that helped propel the Gameboys brand to where it is now.

Canlas says, “Lahat ng ito, paulit-ulit na naming sinasabi na experimental lang ito. Words are not enough to express our gratitude to everyone, sa lahat ng support, lahat ng pagmamahal. Nabigyan niyo kami ng ibang level of purpose as actors, artists, storytellers, iba na talaga yung purpose naming lahat. You keep us going and you keep us motivated.”

Director Ivan Andrew Payawal said that more than just a film, Gameboys the Movie is a love letter to fans and the LGBT community, “This is a product of love, sana po naramdaman din ninyo yung love letter namin para sa inyo, sa LGBT community, eto po ay para sa atin lahat.”

Gameboys the Movie is now showing on digital cinema platforms KTX and Ticket2Me.