“Joy is Here”: A Review of Hello, Love, Goodbye

Hello, Love, Goodbye is breaking box office records in the Philippines, and now it’s making waves throughout the diaspora.

The film centers on Joy (Kathryn Bernardo), a domestic helper living and working in Hong Kong, and her determination to fulfill the responsibilities to her family in the Philippines. She then meets Ethan (Alden Richards), a Filipino immigrant in Hong Kong working as a bartender, who, unlike Joy, skirts many of his responsibilities to his family. The two meet, fall in love, then…life happens.

 

It’s easy to see why the movie has won the hearts of many Filipinos worldwide. Yes, Filipinos love their romance films, but Hello, Love, Goodbye also reminds audiences of the realities so many Filipinos face. Amidst the love between the couple is the harrowing life of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and the various ways the two have to navigate through the social, legal, and geographic boundaries that separate them from so many people. The film sheds additional light on the realities of living abroad and the seemingly impossible ways of finding and sustaining love transnationally. It’s not your typical melo-drama about OFWs, nor is it just another sappy Filipino rom-com. Instead, filmmaker Cathy Garcia-Molina brilliantly takes the best elements of both genres and fuses them together to make an emotional-laden, yet entertaining film.

The acting of Kathryn Bernardo certainly carries the film, particularly through the roller coaster emotions Joy felt during her journey. Alden Richards was a bit more stoic in character, but he still serves as a suitable love interest. Additionally, as a Filipino film, family is a big element for both characters’ lives. Garcia-Molina successfully lines out the main plot narratives that demonstrate Joy and Ethan’s obligations of family that complicate their love for each other.  Garcia-Molina also employs artistic filmmaking devices that gives the film a very poetic touch.

By no means is Hello, Love, Goodbye perfect. Some of the subplots are a bit excessive: three disabled characters, both stars’ ex-partners make an appearance, and a run-away cousin. One can also do without the romantically-laced music in the background of almost every conversation between Joy and Ethan. Also, Bernardo and Richards’s light skin color aren’t exactly the prototypical among Filipinos living in Hong Kong (but that’s certainly a larger and ongoing issue in Philippine society).

Yet, despite these minor glitches, the movie works best as an expanded view of OFW life. Most films centered on OFWs highlight the horrific elements – an abusive employer, spoiled children left home, or cheating spouses. One particular scene in the movie is even an ode the classic OFW film, Anak. We see Joy and her friends watching quintessential scene in Anak (2000), where Vilma Santos, in an Oscar award-worthy performance, painstakingly explains to her daughter the tremendous sacrifice she has to make for her family as an OFW. We are thus reminded that the OFW experience of hardship continues on in this global economy, with no concrete end in sight.

While this movie touches on some of these elements, Hello, Love, Goodbye also conveys that OFWs maintain humanity and happiness amidst the chaos and injustice abroad. Throughout the movie, the characters live full lives. Though their life situations are not ideal, they can still unwind at a bar at night, they can poke fun at their friends, and they can enter beauty contents. But most of all, like Joy, they can fall in love.

 

Hello, Love, Goodbye is playing in theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada.  For theater listings, click here.

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