Like its main characters, I have an unsavory relationship with One More Chance. Mind you: I love this movie. Passionately. In 2009 when I first saw it, my teenage pea-brain could not comprehend its more mature themes. It taught me about individuality in romantic partnerships. That there may be more to it than just butterflies in our stomachs. Despite this, the sorry romantic in me wanted Popoy and Basha to sail off into the sunset, hands and lips locked like any other couple in a romantic movie.
But here’s the thing: One More Chance isn’t just another romance movie. My first rewatch—which must have been three or four years later—left me properly amazed. Here is a studio film nestled so cozily on the machine that built it. Yet, it seems to yearn to break form too (within business reason, of course). Its characters want, throw petty tantrums, and often when it’s too late, feel regret.
Basha, a doe-eyed architect played by Bea Alonzo, is one who impressed me. The movie picks up from her decision to break up with her long-time lover, Popoy (John Lloyd Cruz). Then not-so-well-watched a cinephile, I understood that though perhaps not that rare in Philippine cinema, Basha’s resolve is something special. Who in the world of movies has ever faced her life’s complications head-on? Who in the real world could ever?
The rest of the film functions exactly the way one expects a Star Cinema outing does: there are moments that are God-tier meme-worthy they had to be intentional (Maja Salvador’s “mansari” gift is the gift that keeps on giving); stellar performances across the board (from Alonzo and Cruz as well as their co-stars); and a theme song that seems fated to never know obscurity.
We find Popoy and Basha at the very rocky end of their relationship. Five years into their partnership, we start to see the cracks. He’s the overbearing type, insufferable past the point of micromanaging every minute detail of their life together. She is—unsurprisingly—the opposite, the kind that resigns to silence just so a fit doesn’t fester to a fight.
When they eventually break up, the pain is tangible. And it’s no thanks to who they were as individuals, nor to the fact that the scene (and the film itself for that matter) is laden with heavy words and even heavier music. It’s because it’s pain that’s no longer foreign to us. We’re familiar with it, having lived it only once…if we’re lucky. The kicker is that they have to work together for a project, just about the sickest idea Garcia-Molina could muster—a cruel Parent Trap-ping of two lovers with fresh, open wounds.
Just as you’d expect, things turn for the worst. What begins as awkward provisos of a doomed collaboration quickly turns into grunt-filled arguments that would later putrefy into full-blown fights. The last one would go down as the film’s centerpiece, the key moment with which it will be remembered for years and years (ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, you know how this works…).
“She loved me at my worst,” squeals Popoy. “You had me at my best.” And it’s here where the film loses me. I grow more frustrated every time I watch it. How have I for a very long time glorified this sordid moment? I can’t be the only one who has felt this. I’ve rewatched the film a number of times to make sure I’m not way in over my head. After all those rewatches, it has become very clear to me: Popoy does not get to gaslight Basha in that one moment of weakness.
As he was written in Vanessa Valdez and Carmi Romulo’s screenplay, Popoy was an asshole. He treated Basha horribly, with the implication being that he’s doing it not without love. And with his maddeningly dogmatic schtick of “hey, you broke up with me remember”, it’s tough to take his as a real promise to get better (or at least to get himself right). Popoy has no business having a redemptive arc because he hasn’t gone through the growth that warrants his redemption.
Call it lazy writing. You can. But there are other factors too. It could be societal. Everything else that One More Chance says about romance feels fresh and ahead-of-its-time, so in a certain light, it’s ironic that the writers have had such a hard time humanizing its egoistic male character. I just wish they didn’t settle. It doesn’t help too that in the film’s 2015 sequel, A Second Chance, Popoy hasn’t grown too much from his ’07 self. Grumpier, maybe, but also mature enough not to hide the cracks.
Certainly, the “bullish guy character gets a shoehorned redemptive arc” trope has yet to go away. But there are also films that, thankfully, might have looked at this indelible movie moment from One More Chance, and thought it wrong to punish a woman for merely standing by her choice.
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