Cathy Garcia-Molina's My Amnesia Girl has all the trappings of detestable formula. Like all of the romantic comedies that preceded it, the ones that have given Star Cinema the ill-repute of dumbing down its followers with rehashes of the same story, by the film seems to be relying solely on kitsch, on star power, on everything artificial. There is no denying the film's use of kitsch. In fact, the film is quite unabashed with it, with characters strangely enveloped by a culture of love reigning supreme over everything else. It is adamantly unpretentious, relishing on the obvious fact that it has in its service of fun an abundance of cute and hip. It does not aspire anything more than to recharge its audience's thirst for spritely romance, the one that is less attached to reality, the one that mines on the mysteries of fate to add magic to it. In other words, My Amnesia Girl is Grade-A fluff. It fulfills everything that a mainstream romantic comedy should do. Much more, it skirts away from genre revision or experimentation, to delight of the studio that bankrolled its existence.
Miraculously though, the film, with its refreshing lack of pretenses of achieving more than momentary delights that is expected of a romantic comedy of mainstream sensibilities, does actually more than achieving the momentary delights that are the ultimate fulfillment of the films of its genre. Somewhere along the way, amid the near redundant exchanges of witty pick-up lines, against its need to only delight, against its fate as a tool for escape that is to be solely for enjoyment, the film develops a beautiful heart that thankfully aches, although quite subtly, more than it delights.
Apollo (John Lloyd Cruz), pick-up artist extraordinaire, met Irene (Toni Gonzaga), a photographer, in a speed-dating event. While Irene attended the event only to document it, she ended up enamored by Apollo's undeniable charms and wit. The seemingly perfect relationship suddenly and unexpectedly ended when on their wedding day, Apollo did not show up, leaving Irene irreparably heartbroken. When the two serendipitously meet in a grocery, Irene concocts a lie and pretends to be suffering from amnesia, therefore, removing all memories of Apollo and his failure to marry her. Apollo, believing Irene's lie, takes the supposed clean slate to undo everything he has done to her and make her fall for him like the first time. The two become inseparable again, but are now faced with the impending repercussions of their second chance at love be revealed as by-products of Irene's vengeful grand lie.
The story, written by Jade Castro whose masterful Endo (2007) situated a poignant love story in the middle of temporary contractual employment, hinges on a ludicrous proposal that men can be so drowned in love and guilt that amnesia, which only happens in unimaginative telenovelas and is highly unlikely in reality, has become instantly believable. Garcia-Molina, however, manages to distract from the implausibility of the premise by creating a film that is as self-aware of its contrivances as the characters are self-aware of their love-addicted attitude in life. The performances by Cruz and Gonzaga are expectedly charming, especially during the film's lighter moments. However, during the moments where the film bleeds with emotions, Cruz and Gonzaga communicate those emotions with convincing conviction that is impossible not to get swayed into their dilemma and be affected with much more than just the cheap thrills that is usually associated with Star Cinema's star-studded romances.
The film's last scene, made funny by the trademark exchanges of witty one-liners that extend up to the end of the end credits, is actually quite bittersweet. Sure, the lovers end up together, as expected in any romantic comedy produced by Star Cinema. However, there is no assurance, no previous revelation, that fate's cruel retort to Irene's crueler lie, a lie that has produced so many beautiful things that it seems more alluring than the truth, has been resolved. We only see the lovers in satisfied bliss of being together, not knowing exactly whether the memories, good and bad, are there with them in their modest celebration. Whether Garcia-Molina knows it or not, with My Amnesia Girl, she has made a film that transcended the limiting bounds of formula filmmaking without breaking them. I'm crossing my fingers, but there might be hope yet for the mainstream.
(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention. First published in Philippine Free Press.)