GROWING and EVOLVING with KATHNIEL in “THE HOWS OF US”; Rakes P35M on First Day!

A lot of popular love teams in Philippine Showbiz tend to start when the stars involved are in their teens, the better to mine interest and adoration from that massive chunk of Filipino media fandom. Sometimes that is as far as the team-up will go. But if the pairing is good then it will last for years, with the tandem getting to evolve their dynamics from teeny roles and projects to something meatier and mature. That is what the latest cinematic outing by Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla is gunning for, as seen in Star Cinema’s “The Hows of Us”.

Cathy Garcia-Molina is on her sophomore project in directing the massively influential Kathniel love team since they first worked together on 2014’s “She’s Dating the Gangster”, though needless to say I have followed the successful showbiz journey of Kathryn and Daniel for much longer than that. Still, taking “Gangster” into consideration helps to highlight the amount of growth has already transpired in four years; the lead stars are still undoubtedly Kathniel to fans, but are now older and wiser as performers, in a manner of speaking. The fact that they play a pair of exes meeting again after a period of separation – prior to which, they have cohabited without marrying under one roof – underlines this.

This time around our Kathniel duo are George (short for Georgina) and Primo, who meet again after a bitter parting of ways in the same house they lived in until everything fell apart. Their story is told in flashback. Initially meeting in high school (a sendup to their earlier roles), the two form a surprisingly close relationship, helped along by George’s “Tita Lola” (Susan Africa) giving them her home to reside in while they plan for their future: Primo to lead his band to stardom and George to finish medical school and become a doctor.

But the course of love does not run smooth. As the years pass the same qualities that attracted George to Primo turn out to hold him – and her – down. Primo’s frustrated musical journey hobbles George’s medical studies. Lack of prospects and funds lead George to do part-time work. It is a slice of reality in action. But when George unleashes her pent-up anger one bad evening, Primo walks out of her life. And that is when the plot really begins.

In the present time, George is making ready to sell her late Lola Tita’s house to fund an eye operation for her younger brother. But Primo returns from a sojourn with his DH family in Italy to try and set things right. Friction ensues between the two; so do a lot of delightful rom-com hijinks. This is the best time to see just how far the Kathniel love team has come in their portrayal of the dynamics of two people in a relationship (or formerly). Kathryn has never looked as good in film as this, retaining her trademark petite Asian charm but also showing she is a big girl now.

Daniel does not drop the ball in his court either. He is just so good at making you look at him whenever he is on scene, with his out-of-the-box characterization coupled with the Padilla charisma. I may have mentioned in the past how Daniel seems to do his own take on elements of character archetypes played by Father Rommel and Uncle Robin Padilla. Now, his acting is truly his own, and it is as effective as ever if the squeals of girls in my movie viewing audience were any indication. His and Kathryn’s dynamics are a study in acting maturity.

While it is easy to pretend that Kathniel are the only actors in “The Hows of Us”, we need to give credit to their costars too. Aside from Susan Africa, we have veteran actress Jean Garcia and young singing heartthrob Darren Espanto as George’s mom Baby and brother Yohan. Garcia gets plenty of acting done too as a single parent pretending to be a widow to bury the pain of her own separation. Darren is adorable as the diabetic sibling slowly losing his eyesight, but might get a reprieve if the sale of his sister’s home goes off as planned.

Other cast members who did well on this film include Alwyn Uytingco and newbie Juan Miguel Severro as Primo and George’s respective best friends, serving as sounding boards for what the two plans to do with their situation. Odette Khan appears in a minor yet significant role as a prospective buyer of the house, but whose insight might be the ticket for the exes to return to being on the same page.

What is perhaps much better than just fawning over a love team you like would be to be able to see that romantic acting tandem last a long time, and grow old just as you yourself are. “The Hows of Us” does just that with the unbeatable Kathniel combination. This movie did not just make a P35 million first-day box-office draw for only staying “as is”. It evolved with the lead stars, and that is definitely worth your ticket price. Rating 5/5.

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