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Nov 25, 2015
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(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)

Tae ako,” declares Popoy (John Lloyd Cruz) as he gets into one of the many arguments he’ll have with wife Basha (Bea Alonzo) in the sequel to the beloved 2007 hit, One More Chance. It is a line we’d never imagine coming out from the mouth of blockbuster boy wonder Cruz, yet there they were, ringing in our ears inside the cinema. The film has zero capacity for bullshit as it paints a gripping rom-com courageous enough to do away with cheese and pleasantries in lieu of colder, bluer realities.

Popoy and Basha are now married, seven years past their honeymoon, and miles and miles away from the kind of early-marriage sweetness that scares away diabetics. Through those seven years, the dynamic has changed between the two. There are bills to pay. There are careers to manage. There are dinners to attend. How can their fairy tale-like romance survive now?

The answer is it can’t. Popoy and Basha, in the beginning, fills the screen with so much idealism. They dream of a big house in Tagaytay where their firstborn shall be raised. And to achieve that, the two set up their own architecture and engineering firm. Like their marriage, the business gets off to a booming start, looking as if things would really be that easy. They get clients, left and right, with Popoy aggressively hunting them down, fuelled by an almost-greedy desire to give his wife all that she wants. In doing so, Popoy bites off more than he can chew—his overly aggressive stance eventually leading to a big, publicized failure. As bad things come, they come in bunches. Failed projects pile up, threatening to permanently shut down the company.

Basha, through all these, is at home, having been forced by Popoy to stop working after a miscarriage. Unbeknownst to her, the company is on a downward spiral. Popoy makes Basha believe that everything is alright at work, trying to shield her from reality. That meant Popoy had to lie about the real situation. But as all lies do, the lies eventually surface, forcing Basha to confront Popoy and his lack of ability to fully confide in his wife.Kakampi mo ako,” Basha reminds Popoy in one important scene.

To save the company, Basha demands and gets a full account of where the company stands, and employs measures to right the ship. She achieves a level of success, although the movie doesn’t tell us whether the company truly succeeds in the end. While seeing the company’s positive turn might have been a good ending, the movie adds a plot twist: Now, Popoy feels like a failure in light of Basha’s successful turn at the wheel.

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By coincidence, Popoy sees an old colleague—the magnetic, feisty Arah Cervantes played by Arci Muñoz in her own memorable, rock-and-roll style—asking him to start anew in London where a big job awaits. The twist leads to the movie’s real climax where Popoy is once again forced to choose between staying with Basha or jetting off to London—a proper bookend, given how the film started with Popoy choosing to finally wed Basha in lieu of a big offer in the Middle East. The only difference now is that the two aren’t wearing their honeymoon spectacles anymore—and have instead, matured to truly accommodate each other’s true colors.

The couple’s well-fleshed out journey from glossy-eyed newlyweds to a couple that has finally understood what “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer” might really mean holds significant relevance. The current milieu asks us to be engrossed in beautiful “pre-nup” shoots and grand, picturesque weddings that we sometimes forget that there’s some real work to be done behind the scenes, behind carefully chosen Instagram and Facebook posts.

A Second Chance reminds us of that—and unapologetically so, with the scenes becoming so in-your-face at times like a big plate of “tae” coming straight at your face. This is not shallow work, designed merely to elicit kilig. There’s significance to what it’s saying, even if there are times when it does indulge in sweet-nothings. It’s a mature piece of work, buoyed by the deft directorial hand of Cathy Garcia-Molina, and an incredible, undeniable, unflappable chemistry between John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo. The two actors have definitely expanded their color palette to accommodate the more demanding dynamics of the new film. It just works.

Of special mention as well is Janus del Prado who provides comedic counterweight to the whole affair. Del Prado, in his role as that funny, straight-talking guy in every barkada, gives Ketchup Eusebio (the womanizing general in Heneral Luna) some heavy competition for the title, “Best Provider Of Comic Relief In A Serious Pinoy Movie.” Something tells us that del Prado’s phrase Pinaglihi sa kalan has enough potential to become the most recited quote from the movie. Mind you, this isn’t a knock on the lack of quotable quotes from the film’s two big stars. It’s just that, unlike many other rom-coms, A Second Chance survives not on catchy, individual lines but rather thrives on its uncensored, big-picture take on that thing called kasalan.

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A Second Chance is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

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