Barbie Forteza and Derrick Monasterio are a perfect match in Almost A Love Story.
Almost A Love Story is a BG Productions International’s first mainstream film, tackles love of a different nature – one that springs and grows with the two parties concerned never seeing each other in the flesh.
In the story, Baneng (Barbie Forteza) and (Iggy) Derrick Monasterio, are both young visual artists. Forteza’s mom (Lotlot de Leon) has been working for a long time as nanny-cum-help to Iggy’s family. Via Skype, Forteza and Monasterio develop a virtual “relationship.” But theirs is a deep friendship so unlike the fleeting relationships prevalent among millennials.
They’ve known each other since they were very young, sharing a fondness characterized by discussions about art, the typical little “asarans” between two people who’ve grown so comfortable with each other, and that certain urge to call on the other for comfort and solace in times of doubts and minor crises.
But they never once exchange I love yous.
When they finally get the chance to be together in Italy where Monasterio’s family resides with Forteza’s mom, what follows is a series of scenes that use familiar rom-com tropes. It is to the movie’s director Louie Ignacio’s credit that he handles these concessions with care and finesse, never letting the beauty of its Italian location get in the way of stealing the thunder from the main characters. In a few words, the breathtaking vistas are a backdrop but the emotions and the people remain the main attraction.
And it works because the film is blessed with some fine performers like De Leon, Ana Capri, and Matet de Leon.
Barbie Forteza has also found the perfect big screen leading man in Derrick Monasterio. It has always been a general consensus that none of Forteza’s leading men on the big and small screens has matched her sensitivity and intensity except perhaps for Ronwaldo Martin in the Cinemalaya entry of yore Tuos. Forteza and Monasterio have done a couple of soaps before together but in Almost A Love Story, they prove to be such an irresistible match.
Perhaps it helps that Barbie fits the bill as a perky young woman, cute as a button and pretty but not devastatingly beautiful. She reminds you of a very young Maricel Soriano who can switch from being a spitfire into a dramatic powerhouse in a matter of seconds. Notice the little scene where Monasterio tells her to hop onto the motorbike because he would take her to meet “his girlfriend.” Barbie’s face shifts from one filled with gaiety to sudden apprehension. It is so fleeting and yet quite impressive that you have to have a keen eye.
Monasterio, on the other hand, has never been so handsomely photographed than in this film, with some scenes showcasing his face in extreme closeups. With his assured stance, deep-set eyes, and the body of a gym rat, Monasterio should have been a bigger star by now.
In one crucial scene, where Monasterio finally confesses his real feelings for Forteza, the former displays a sensitivity that matches Forteza’s adeptness at being subtle and yet expressive which is a rare gift. Without giving away spoilers (there is a twist near film’s end), Forteza will break your hearts by the time she tries to convince herself that everything she’s hearing is but a dream, tapping her cheeks with her fingers repeatedly. It is a great young actress at work and on that scene alone, “Almost A Love Story” should not be missed.