In director Chris Martinez’s latest offering, long-time couple Ron (Vic Sotto) and Andrea Balatbat (Dawn Zulueta) are living the dream in every way imaginable.
They have three kids, are financially secure, and live a luxurious lifestyle. In the mornings, they get to enjoy eggs benedict as a family before heading off to school and work. But something is missing; despite being at a rather late stage in their married life, they call each other “beh” and are, for the most part, completely detached from one another. They have little chemistry and have nothing in common. The simple, easygoing Ron earns a humble living by managing a local car wash, while Andrea, on the other hand, is a larger-than-life editor at a travel magazine who rehearses project pitches on the daily.
This stark contrast spills down to their children, too: Christian (JC Santos) is an artistic, introverted photographer while his sister Alexandra (Gabbi Garcia) is the charismatic, tomboyish, basketball star. Even the simplistic cinematography captured this disparity in a few noteworthy shots: In the family’s two cars sitting side by side, a sleek Benz and a jet black bug plastered with stickers.
It’s these distinct differences that set the stage for the main conflict. Despite Ron’s continued affections, Andrea is living it up in her fancy, corporate life, and is the perpetually uninterested wife whose elitism is more than pronounced. Heavy in their marriage is the palpable sense that it just wasn’t meant to be. Day by day, Ron tires of this.
It’s a promising premise, with serious themes of absent parenting in the Filipino family. Accessible from the get-go, it’s a film clearly rooted in the 21st century, with scenes peppered with references of Tinder matches and Uber drivers. This aides in the film’s excessively light tone, and only makes its funnier side all the more so.
Strong performances on the part of its star-studded cast also contribute to this, with a bit of fan service à la Daniel Matsunaga. The casting choices afford the film the picture of a very human family, with each and every member having their own distinct flaws. Sotto does a masterful job at portraying the quirky but easy-going Ron, while Zulueta is the perfect donya spouse with the Tita of Manila appeal to match.
This is, however, as far as the film’s potential goes, as it is ultimately panned by its own brand of nonsense. Among other things, it’s the many tropes present in Meant to Beh that bring it down. In our protagonists’ marriage, for example, we see an overblown depiction of the poor-guy-meets-rich-girl narrative, many years down the line. We see the clumsy Christian meeting his love interest after bumping into her in a school hallway after having to stave off a horde of school bullies.
With scenes poking fun at the millennial conyo, the biggest flaw here is that the film focused too much on its comedic aspect, effectively killing off any built up emotional momentum. Instead, it chooses to maintain a consistently frantic pace, favoring exaggerated one-liners over any vestige of substance.
As a result, the plot developments surrounding the film’s premise moved way too fast, with the movie suddenly evolving into a local, watered-down remake of The Parent Trap (1998) towards the end. The subplots surrounding their children’s lives seemed like afterthoughts thrown in for a quick and easy boost in substance and ended up feeling rather dry in their storytelling.
The comedic approach works for a time, but there comes a point even in the shallowest comedies where it becomes completely unnecessary. For all the serious themes on domestic struggles and marital pitfalls, the movie’s efforts result in borderline slapstick with nothing to say.
Featured photo retrieved from rappler.com