Review: Dan Villegas' ENGLISH ONLY, PLEASE, Feel-Good Rom-Com That's Good For The Soul

Review: Dan Villegas' ENGLISH ONLY, PLEASE, Feel-Good Rom-Com That's Good For The Soul
Dan Villegas' English Only, Please opens with Julian (Derek Ramsay), a New York City-based financial analyst, on the hunt for a Filipino translator to translate the venom-filled speech he wrote for his ex-girlfriend and teach him to say the translation with the perfect diction and accent. He selects Tere (Jennlyn Mercado), the only one among all the applicants for the job to be able to translate all the contents of his speech to his full satisfaction.

As with almost all films of its kind, the two leads meet under circumstances that seem imperfect for a budding romance, but when they slowly let go of their guards, they eventually fall in love, to the absolute delight of all. It's all predictable fluff, which in this case, isn't really that much of a problem. English Only, Please isn't in it to change the landscape of romantic comedies but to make most of the formula that has worked to please mostly without fail.

Its subplots and side characters are all familiar. Despite the incessant reminders of her best friend (Cai Cortez), who herself has love problems to face, Tere is still not over her good-for-nothing ex (Kean Cipriano, again type-casted to play onscreen deuces), who meets with her only for the sexual and economic perks she foolishly grants him. Julian, on the other hand, has his seemingly never-ending infatuation with his ex to grapple with. Of course, the end to their dilemmas is foreseeable. It is the journey to that end that makes the familiar still fun and relevant.

English Only, Please intelligently starts with characters disconnected by language. Screenwriters Antoinette Jadaone and Anjeli Pessumal ingeniously maneuver the story of the film's would-be-lovers via colloquialisms which at first convey the emotional distance between Julian and Tere but eventually become the bridge that would connect them. The film's creative play on language, which also reflects on the Philippines' mighty obsession over words and their various real or invented meanings, is its reliable bag for wit and humor and also its most unique conceit.

Yet English Only, Please can only work if its two leads can play their characters with conviction without relying too much on their off-screen personas for charm. Thankfully, Mercado and Ramsay essay their roles seamlessly, never resorting to the convenience of turning their characters into easy stereotypes.

Villegas completely understands that his material is light and meant to be enjoyable through and through. The film does not have needless downers and forced tragedies. It subsists on the undeniable pleasures of the triumph of romance, against language and cultural barriers, against traumatic mistakes from the past, against lovers' insecurities and inadequacies, against all odds. It is this unwavering trust on the power of love that transforms what could have been is a corny and formulaic product into a truly and impeccably joyful experience.

English Only, Please

  • Dan Villegas
  • Antoinette Jadaone (story)
  • Dan Villegas (story)
  • Antoinette Jadaone (screenplay)
  • Anjeli Pessumal (screenplay)
  • Derek Ramsay
  • Jennylyn Mercado
  • Kean Cipriano
  • Cai Cortez
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Dan VillegasFilipinoThe PhillipinesAntoinette JadaoneAnjeli PessumalDerek RamsayJennylyn MercadoKean CiprianoCai CortezComedy

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