I admit my initial impression with Must Be...Love is that it's simply a vehicle to cash in the popularity of a teen love team but to my surprise it's actually more than that. While it still has all the cutesy stuff to generate “kilig” moments, the movie surprisingly touches on more personal and emotional themes that makes it more than just fluff.
Patchot (Kathryn Bernardo) and Ivan (Daniel Padilla) have been best friends since they were kids. Now that they are teenagers Patchoy realizes that she does not see Ivan as a friend anymore but the problem is, he is now courting her cousin. For once, boyish Patchoy wants to explore her femininity in hopes of winning Ivan's heart but it won't be easy as the change she wants contradicts how her father (John Estrada) raised her.
Star Cinema romantic movies usually adds a sad family background to their characters to justify why they are behaving that way in the present and usually it doesn't work out because the inclusion of those back stories are often too contrived with no reason but add a melodramatic effect. In Must Be...Love, the two teens grew up with a broken family and this time around the back stories of the characters are more believable and easily relatable. The element of family drama was seamlessly integrated to the romantic story. It gave us a solid foundation to understand the characters' apprehensions and insecurities. The lead characters are more well-rounded especially Patchot as she isn't just a helpless girl hopelessly devoted to her best friend but an adolescent discovering a lot of things about herself for the first time.
The main plot is still predictable and did not add any new angle on the “best friends falling for each other” love story and as usual did not give that much dimension to the third wheel other than simply being a hindrance for the destined pair to be together. Also, the movie's portrayal of a girl's boyishness and the subsequent “girl transformation” is tired and formulaic. However, the direction exudes a youthful and lighthearted vibe that it's hard to not to smile on its very sweet nature. Padilla and Bernardo's chemistry is so good that the target demographic (and maybe some adults as well) will surely find themselves rooting for them to be together. However, Padilla still needs to work on his dramatic skills especially that he is paired with such a strong young actress. Bernardo just sells every emotion from infatuation to awkwardness to pain effectively.
Must Be...Love is a pleasant surprise. Just as I thought that this is a typical flash in the pan romcom, it gives an honest look on a young person's struggle with one's self and how it affects her relationships as she grows up. It doesn't exactly offer a fresh insight but it wore its heart on its sleeve that is simply hard to dismiss.