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Bela, JC perfect as a mismatched pair in ‘100 Tula Para kay Stella’

THE top-grossing film in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino is “100 Tula Para kay Stella,” the best work of young writer-director Jason Paul Laxamana since his award-winning “Magkakabaung.”

Just like “Kita Kita,” “100 Tula” is about lost loves and broken hearts that viewers enjoy the most when watching movies. And we ourselves just adore movies about unrequited love, like “Splendor in the Grass,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “The Great Gatsby,” “500 Days of Summer,” etc.

“100 Tula” is about Fidel, a young man with a speech defect so he becomes a loner. In a provincial college in Pampanga, he meets a free spirited girl, Stella, who defends him from bullies who humiliate him and doesn’t care if he stutters. But naturally, he falls in love with her but is never able to articulate his feelings for her. Instead, he secretly writes poems for her.

For Stella, Fidel is only a friend, as she has other boyfriends. She dreams of being a famous rock singer and neglects her studies so she fails in all her subjects in their first year in college, much to the chagrin of her older sister who’s sending her to school.

They are actually a mismatched pair. The movie works because the two leads are both outstanding in their respective roles. Bela Padilla as Stella is totally believable as the seemingly overconfident chick with dark lipstick and a tattoo. She delivers her lines casually and with a tinge of persuasive insouciance. And you feel sorry for her for committing so many mistakes in her young life.

The first time we saw JC Santos in “Esprit de Corps” as an overbearing corps commander and as the dog in the musical “Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady” and we were so impressed by him we felt he’d soon be playing bigger roles. We were right. His role as Fidel is actually reminiscent of Cyrano de Bergerac, the hero with a nose defect who secretly writes poems for the woman he loves. Fidel also can’t communicate his love for Stella and writes 100 poems for her. But by the time he’s ready to give it to her, it’s too late.

What’s astounding about JC is that he gives a very relaxed but very effective portrayal of the underdog. It helps that he has an easy, charming screen presence, but it is his gentle but perfectly nuanced performance that cannot be praised enough.

(M. Bautista, Malaya)