On why (watch) She’s Dating the Gangster (the movie)?

“Kailangan ba kapag nagmamahal, masasaktan rin?” – Athena

I knew it was a gamble watching a film that I had no affinity with.

I’m not a fan of KathNiel. I’m not a fan of teen romcom. I’m not a fan of gangsters.

She's Dating the Gangster.

She’s Dating the Gangster.

But after hearing positive reviews from friends, I took the risk of wasting a few hundred pesos to watch what I predicted to be a bad-boy-turned-prince-charming movie.

And half-way through the movie, I realized I was wrong in dismissing the film as a waste of time. To my surprise, I even had wished that the film will last longer than the reported 105 minutes duration.

The last movie that I felt was worth going to the cinema was Piolo and Toni’s Starting Over Again. (Simply because it was the movie that I can relate to the most.) But I can argue, even if others say that the two movies are of different genres, that She’s Dating is better than Starting.

First, it helps that She’s Dating has parallel love stories that gave the director Cathy Garcia-Molina more options in her narrative. The film switches back and forth from present to past to keep the story interesting. Starting didn’t have that luxury which made some scenes seemed a bit dragging. The one thing that kept Starting interesting was the anticipation of Piolo’s choice in the end. She’s Dating didn’t have that predicament.

To which movie can I compare She’s Dating?

It was a bit like The Fault in our Stars and a bit like the Korean movie The Classic.

Blame it on the stars...How can pure love fail? She's Dating may have taken inspiration from The Fault in our Stars.

Blame it on the stars…How can pure love fail? She’s Dating a Gangster may have taken inspiration from The Fault in our Stars.

But unlike The Fault which was predictable, She’s Dating seemed to make us guess if there will be other “casualties”. Unlike The Classic, She’s Dating have light and colorful moments to go along with melodramatic moments which the teen characters seemed to be too young yet to face already.

Living in the past? Letting go is hard when the past is haunting you. She’s Dating a Gangster has some resemblance to the Korean movie, The Classic.

Don’t be fooled by the “gangster” tag.

Maybe the writer of the story got tired of the usual rich good-looking positive vibes male protagonist. The writer retained the rich good-looking part but opted for a bad-boy type character which seemed tailor-fit for Daniel Padilla. The gangster tag though was just for show (in the movie). The movie did not produce enough scenes to justify the gangster label (except for the billiard hall scene, which ironically the gangster was at the receiving end of a gang beating). At most, he was just a school bully with a posse of clean-cut bullies. The writer just needed a person both adored and feared at the same time — a rich, good-looking gangster, er bully fits the bill.

Don’t be fooled by the “teeny-bopper” posters.

Although the story revolved around teenage love and all that is beautiful in young romance, don’t be deceived that it’s just one of feel-good type of movies as shown by other Star Cinema romcom movies. Far from it even. The film presents the protagonists, young as they are, with questions even philosophers will be hard-pressed to find an answer — commitment and mortality.

Was Abigail right to leave Kenji but allowed Lucas to court her? Was it right for Kenji to threaten Athena/Abigail with (his own) death to force her into a relationship with him? Was it right for Athena to leave Kenji to prolong Abigail’s life? Or in the first place, was it right for Athena to stay with Kenji if it means endangering her life?

There were a number of scenes that would leave some movie-goers misty eyed. Personally, the most powerful scene is Kenneth and Kenji’s scene in the hospital. It was a moment of realization, especially for Kenneth. For Kenji, it felt like absolution. Absolution from the alleged crimes his son accused him of all his life. Until that moment.

Don’t be fooled by the young cast.

With a cast of relatively new love-team, one would expect shallow portrayals from the two main characters. In this movie though, Daniel proved that he can keep up (or at least try to match up) with seasoned veteran Richard Gomez. For Kathryn, it was some sort of a showcase movie for her as she was able to play two different characters/personalities (you can immediately predict which time setting you’re watching based on Kathryn’s character).

 It also helped that the supporting (and cameo) cast involved reliable stars Gomez, Dawn Zulueta, Rio Locsin, Ian Veneracion, Yayo Aguila, Allan Paule, Nino Muhlach, Ramon Christopher along with JM de Guzman, Joem Bascom, Janus del Prado, Joross Gamboa, Ketchup Eusebio and others.

Clearly, the presence of these actors made an impact on Daniel and Kathryn’s performances.

So going back to the question: Kailangan ba kapag nagmamahal, masasaktan rin?

Well, it is the question that even true love cannot solve. The film may have given us the answer at the start of the file: What’s a more powerful force than love? Time.

It is true that in love, one can encounter suffering, pain and heartaches.

But time can heal all of these.

In the end, after some time, Kenji and Athena got reunited. Their meeting healed their sorrows — Kenji for not moving on and Athena for not being able to say sorry. It was a meeting that Athena hoped for. It was that kept her going. It was her chance to let go. It was his chance to start anew. And It was destined to be their last.

 She’s Dating the Gangster- clearly it was one of the best gamble worth betting on.

“Tumaya ka lang. Kung masasaktan, eh di masasaktan.” – Kenji

 P.S. So why she’s dating the gangster?

Athena revealed that it was Kenji’s commitment to pursue his love (then, Abigail) even in the midst of pain (e.g., gang beating) that convinced her that there’s more to Kenji than his bad boy persona.

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