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A propaganda to eradicate the stigma associated with single women
Perhaps a popular opinion nowadays is that traditional marriage has partially lost its allure, most especially to an unprecedented portion of millennials. With its concept constantly reshaping over time and across cultures, society is now capable of embracing new ideas on love and sometimes even deposing traditional marriage as its highest ideal. But old beliefs die hard. On the other hand, an unpopular opinion is that society still marks a prescribed marrying age for both sexes. This even takes a harsher toll for single middle-aged women, who are perceived with ticking clocks above their heads and even tagged with derogatory terms such as old maids or spinsters. Antoinette Jadaone's The Achy Breaky Hearts, can be regarded as propaganda to eradicate the stigma associated with single women. That staying single is more than just a social status rather a description of a strong-willed person who does not need to depend on the intimacy from a lover to be happy. Its ultimate message is commendable. The execution, however, is an entirely different aspect.
Jodi Sta. Maria plays Chinggay, a mid-30's single jewelry store manager who is often bombarded with the painfully annoying question, "Kailan ka ba mag-aasawa?" (When are you going to settle down?). She, along with her group of empowered girlfriends/Titas of Manila (or whatever hipsters call them nowadays), initially rationalizes the perks of being single only to end up wallowing in self-pity upon realizing what it really feels like to be with someone. Desperate to get rid of the social pressure, she makes it a goal to find "the one". But as the narrator says, "when it rains, it pours," life suddenly presents her not only one, but two very viable options: a potential love from her customer Ryan (Ian Veneracion) whose recent rejection from a marriage proposal brings them closer together, and a rekindling old flame Frank (Richard Yap), her "scammed investment" in love who claims to be a changed man now. With Chinggay's dormant heart loveless for almost seven years, nothing beats experiencing this level of euphoria again. But love is a gamble, you win some, you lose some. Will she roll the dice with the risk of potentially getting her heart broken again?
Blockbuster hugot director and screenwriter Antoinette Jadaone takes on a relevant social topic singlehood as a midlife crisis, and blends it well with fan service #TeamTisoy vs. #TeamChinoy, as they dub it. While the undying elements of Pinoy rom-coms are yet again present such as the protagonist's circle of friends acting as a moral compass and a family subplot that affects the protagonist's beliefs, these are all actually contributory to the plot. Throw some cued love songs and a script that oozes with fun sarcasm and hugot-lines, The Achy Breaky Hearts manages to be emotionally engrossing especially in its first half. However, it struggles to be persuasive up until the end. Chinggay comes down to her realizations but never really owns any of them as the film's resolution is not a direct result of her free will. Moreover, the film speaks more volumes when Chinggay is all by herself. One could wish that the film delved more on the subject of single women struggling to comply with social standards.
Underneath the layer of romance and excitement lies the twinge of reality that love is a wager you place, you tear your heart out and slap it down hard, with the hopes of getting reciprocated. On a closer inspection, this is not only a story of a woman choosing between two men, but also a woman choosing to be happy even in solitude. Do we have to be subversive to societal norms and expectations in shaping our decisions when it comes to love? The film answers with a blatant "No." And despite having the tendency to force-feed the "love yourself" mantra to its audience, The Achy Breaky Hearts supplies the positive energy needed to be categorized as a feel-good movie.
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