Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Teach Me To Love (2008)



Teach Me To Love (Eddie Romero, 2008)

Let me get it out. Eddie Romero's Teach Me To Love is not a very good film. Romero, who at the very ripe age of 82, attempted to resurrect his directing career with Faces of Love (2007), an amiable if not totally disposable love story about a widower (Christopher De Leon) and his former nurse and lover (Angel Aquino). Teach Me To Love, as a follow-up to Faces of Love, promises to be uncompromising, touching on the subject of teacher-student relationships, that might not be as readily acceptable as two former lovers reigniting a long-dead romantic relationship. However, the film confuses courage with trite charm, and eventually turns into an indescribable mishmash of incongruous elements that is quite frankly and most infuriatingly, near-unwatchable.

Nathan Lopez, who made the world swoon as a prepubescent gay boy in the grips of love beyond his years in Aureaus Solito's Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, 2005) and later on became one of the petty crooks in Brillante Mendoza's Tirador (Slingshot, 2007), is charming enough as Mark, the high school boy who falls in love with Connie (Maui Taylor), the new Physics teacher. There's an endearing facet to his unrefined and un-manufactured acting. When he strums his guitar and attempts to belt out a tune, complete with his raspy post-puberty baritone and an indifference to tonal deficiencies, you can sense a quiet sincerity that resonates very well.

Unfortunately and probably due to budgetary constraints (which prevents Romero from hiring a different actor or investing in make-up) Lopez is also forced to portray Mark, seven years after his romantic interlude with Connie. He alights from the bus, supposedly several years older with several years worth of maturity. However, save for some barely-there whiskers and a get-up that is supposedly there to make him look older, Lopez, with some of the adolescent charms intact despite the lapse of time, could not pull it off and the performance, from being genial and honest, ends up pathetic and contrived.

Taylor suffers from the same fate of making most of what essentially are haphazardly written characters. Her Connie is fueled by an invisible force, if fueled by anything at all. Her motivations are unclear or perhaps completely absent. Thus, when she offers her student a clean uniform or a few hours of free tutorials, there's an uncertainty if she is just inherently helpful or if she is pushed by some kind of narcissism and enjoys the fact that she is being adored by her students. When she desperately holds unto her relationship with her married lover (Tonton Gutierrez) despite the fact that she's being used indignantly, it is either out of sheer stupidity or by some unknown and unwritten ulterior motive. Thus, when he suddenly makes love with Mark, it comes off as a total and unexpected surprise. There are no real emotions, no logic, just a drastic sleight of hand that simply does not work.

Teach Me To Love is restricted by awful writing and unremarkable directing. The screenplay, co-written by Romero with Rica Arevalo, is both flavorless and careless, with dialogues that are burdened with an incoherent interplay of antiquated flourish and contemporary colloquialisms, and several narrative turns that push the film into the edges of bad taste with utter implausibility. Romero directs, to put it bluntly, like a man who is yet to discover the wonders of Viagra. Thus, as a romance between a lovely and charismatic teacher and her virginal student, Teach Me To Love is flaccid and as a cautionary tale of the repercussions of such romance, it is impotent.

9 comments:

Peter Nellhaus said...

Nathan Lopez has grown up fast in the past three years. I wouldn't have recognized him had I saw the still by itself.

Oggs Cruz said...

He's done a soap (naturally, playing the gay best friend of the lead, after the success of Maximo Oliveros), and grew up to play more mature roles (a swindling crook in Slingshot, and this). His identical twin brother was one of the leads in Aureaus Solito's Pisay.

Raya said...

I need to see this! I learned that the best way to enjoy a new Eddie Romero is to watch it with Raymond Lee.

Oggs Cruz said...

I'm at a loss thinking of ways how this would make for enjoyable viewing...

Andy Briones said...

I had high hopes for this film thinking that it's helmed by Eddie Romero. Even though the title itself sounds iffy, I found myself trekking to Robinson's to watch it.

I hated it—hated every single second of it.

"Ang pangit ng istorya," a moviegoer said after the end credits.

Nuff said.

Oggs Cruz said...

I've never thought highly of Eddie Romero as a director, unlike let's say Gerry De Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal or Celso Ad Castillo. Sure, he's made some interesting stuff, which includes The Ravagers (there's this particularly beautiful scene in the movie where FPJ and the Caucasian lead were presumably falling in love...), Intramuros, and Aguila, but his directing feels too theatrical, too droll (which is probably why he made a killing at making historical productions for television). His digital works expose his weakness as a director (visual dullness, implausible scripting, etc.).

Anonymous said...

@ raya, i think films must stand on itself.

Anonymous said...

Eddie Romero, regardless of this film criticism, stands out to be one of the most treasured filmmakers in our country.

fao rani said...

ngayon ko lang to nabasa..anyway, i am actually part of this film, i'm a friend of nathan (mark) and a best friend of crystal (grace) here... it's kinda awkward reading the review, but it was a fair share of opinions =) tc!