“Let nothing stop you from achieving your dreams.”
It’s very rare to see a film that does not raise a question. It’s there to build tension, to generate interest and curiosity. In Hello, Love, Goodbye, it is posed to our protagonist Joy (Kathryn Bernardo)—should she choose her career, or should she stay and choose her love for Ethan (Alden Richards)?
Films about the lives of OFWs aren’t foreign. Milan (2004), Dubai (2005), and Barcelona: A Love Untold (2016), among many examples, all depict the lives of Filipinos conquering the harsh realities of working abroad. Hello, Love, Goodbye is nothing new. Like many of its predecessors, it gives us a raw look into the merciless journey of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong. The first few minutes centers on Joy’s routine—we see her working hard to provide for herself and her family back home. Kathryn Bernardo has starred in many melodramatic romance films in the past year, so it’s not shocking to see her do a brilliant job in portraying a believable worn-out worker. She has a charm that captivates and she gets you to root for her character’s jaded life.
The film does not shy away from showing the lengths OFWs go through to generate money—from illegal sidelines, night jobs, to selling goods to fellow Filipinos. We see from each characters perspective the different facets of working overseas: Joy’s mom marrying her employer to get herself citizenship to petition her family, Sally’s (Kakai Bautista) dilemma back home about her cheating husband, and young Mary Dale’s (Maymay Entrata) firsthand experience as a domestic helper. It also shows how they try to cope with the stress of work with weekly Sunday gatherings and their annual beauty pageant. The film empathizes with the sacrifices they make without being apologetic.
This is, however, still a love story. We are thrown into the cat-and-mouse chase between the hardworking Joy and the happy-go-lucky Ethan. While Ethan is initially characterized by his cheesy and overused one-liners and battered playboy façade piqued by Joy’s resistance from his antics, his character later on uncovers his sensitive and hopeless romantic side. Meanwhile, career-driven Joy lets herself breathe and accepts the chance for love that Ethan offers.
It’s refreshing to see Bernardo and Richards out of their respective love teams. We see them not as Kathryn from Kathniel and Alden from Aldub but as two lost souls in a foreign land trying to find love, comfort, and stability. Bernando seemed more mature compared to her other roles, and Richards was able to show his usual charisma as well as newfound vulnerability. This movie showed the two actors’ versatility and proved that they can thrive even without the spectacle of their love teams.
Despite some of the aspects of the film that conveniently fall under the cliches of Filipino rom-coms—the casual humor that appears to be reiterated in every recent Filipino film, along with Moira De La Torre’s unwavering voice—the two leads keep this engaging. They exposed a new strand in their career that is fresh and chemistry-filled.
In the end, did Joy pick Ethan? Did she give up her dream to stay in Hong Kong with her newfound love? Maybe, maybe not. But the important thing that the film tells us is what their love means, regardless if it got a happy ending. It tells us that love should never become a burden; it should not be justified as an act of self-sacrifice. The purpose of our devotion and perseverance should not just be for others, and we should never be ashamed to choose ourselves. It reminds us that gratifying our own needs, wants, and dreams is not selfish, and it never will be.