A drama by definition is a series of events or set of circumstances that evokes human emotion, the kind that leaves spectators frustrated, shocked, awed, happy, or sad. This is exactly what Amore strives to do. The first chapter of this Pinoy BL series, which consists of the first nine episodes, takes the viewer on a roller coaster ride of feels. Some good. Some bad.
My personal thoughts about the first part of this show are conflicted. Amore left me feeling a healthy mix of frustration, confusion, and some satisfaction. If the writers intended to leave viewers feeling completely confused, then they’ve succeeded beyond their wildest expectations with me.
—Edited by TheFNGee
Amore is the tale of two college roommates who, in an attempt to hide a baby in the boys’ dormitory, grow close and eventually fall in love. When their secret is discovered, questions about the baby’s paternity arise, which leads to a series of revelations that change their lives.
Drei Arias portrays Jimmy, a seemingly arrogant and self-centered student who spends most of his time getting into trouble.
Erwin Buenaventura portrays Joey, a smart, grounded, and hardworking student focused on his future. As the valedictorian of his high school, he has a bright path ahead of him.
The first chapter of Amore opens with a young man prepared to tell his story on the radio. Shrouded by shadows, the opening scene comes off a little gloomy but with promise. The darkness is nice; the dim color scheme alluding to the mystery that might be coming. Nostalgic background music swells. The man begins to tell his story.
“I’m Jimmy. I’ve loved once and also been hurt once.”
I prepared my heart for pain. Radio shows have always conjured up a feeling of loneliness for me. They bring back memories of lying awake at night listening to the host talk, the one-sided conversation keeping me from feeling alone. Amore did a great job of taking me back to those moments when I spent more time wondering about what was going on in everyone else’s life in order to escape my own.
I like that Amore starts this way, with Jimmy welcoming the viewers into his life, his story.
There’s a ten year flashback that plucks the viewers from the radio station and drops them into college life. The second lead, Joey, is searching for his dormitory.
This scene is where some of the show’s issues start becoming glaringly obvious. The background music is loud and, at times, staticky, and even drowning out the dialogue. There is a pinned note by production in the comments that explain this, so I expected the sound quality to get better in future episodes. In the first nine episodes, it never does. There is also the ever-present sound of a rooster crowing, a noise that plagues the entire drama—even with the interior scenes. I found myself wondering if there was no boom operator for this production. Also, the video quality reminded me of a home movie. (Editor’s Note: Sounds like the actors are wired with radio-mics, but it also seems no one knew how to use them properly until about episode 8 or 9. Also, the audio editor they did have seemingly kept trying to mix stereo or by character position L—>R on screen)
As a new show full of young actors, I chalked the audio issues up to low production cost and Pandemic problems. As for the video quality, the home movie vibe strangely works in this show’s favor. It gives the drama a reminiscent feel, which happens to take the edge off the audio problems.
Jimmy reappears on the screen, young and belligerent, sitting in the backseat of a car filled with his friends. All of them are involved in a conversation about girls and partying. Oh, the sweet freedom of college life, the years where we make as many mistakes as we do fun memories.
Jimmy seems somewhat depressed and detached from the conversation in the car, making it obvious from the beginning that there is more to Jimmy than meets the eye.
The scene cuts to Joey, who is getting settled in at the dormitory run by Madam Tusha. Right away, I really liked Tusha. There is no over-acting, and she imparts good wisdom. She is also likable, and I love that she is in a long term relationship with her partner, Shane. Tusha is one of the many reasons why I found the trans representation in this show refreshing. In many BLs, the trans characters tend to get small supporting roles that require little more than them being overly dramatic, gossipy, or bantering comedically in the background. In Amore, they get center stage, with their acting and emotional scenes even upstaging the leads at times.
Joey settles into his room, and my heart clenches when I realize by his plea to the heavens that both of his parents are gone. Having lost both of my parents, I know what it feels like to take major life steps without them there.
The first part of the first episode ends.
The stage has been set, and the main characters are introduced. The first semester of college is about to begin, and in the first nine episodes, the viewers are taken on a wild ride. To break it down simply, I will discuss what I loved about the first chapter of this drama and what I was not a big fan of.
If nothing else, Amore is a very full drama that immerses the viewer in its characters’ lives. Each character has a specific role to play, and despite their young ages, and a lot of lines to deliver. I was significantly impressed by the amount of dialogue each character had and the acting abilities of those cast. I am especially impressed by the actors who portray Wil and Nuan, secondary characters who fall in love with our protagonist, Joey. Jules Idiola, the actor who portrays Nuan, is the Pinoy Fluke Natouch, and can cry instantly in a believable, engaging way. Ivan Sarte, the actor who portrays Wil, manages to express himself well with his eyes and facial features, leaving me with little doubt that his character is someone that will leave me emotionally tangled.
I was also impressed by Jelai and Brenda, two trans characters brilliantly and beautifully portrayed by Robic Villanueva and Gabo Adeva. Their introduction into the show gave me no indication that they’d become two of my favorite characters, but their acting later and the emotional moments involving them seized the attention away from the leads. I’d be open to an entire drama simply about these two.
Let’s not forget our leads.
Drei Arias and Erwin Buenaventura are captivating as Jimmy and Joey, giving us two very different lead characters with two very different sets of problems and backgrounds. Amore delivers a classic “opposites attract” storyline. I liked this mostly because the first nine episodes set up a deep and understanding friendship between Jimmy and Joey rather than a romance. Although there are moments of obvious attraction, their relationship is largely platonic and significantly close, cemented by their shared room and shared secret. By building on that comfortable close friendship, I feel like this will make the romance and heartache later even more intense.
As immersive and full as Amore is as a story, it is just as problematic in its telling. The number of characters and storylines inserted into the first nine episodes alone is so overwhelming that it tends to take away from the deeper dynamic it could create with the viewer.
Originally, I wanted to take this drama and break down the first nine episodes by how I felt while watching each scene, but as I watched, it became glaringly obvious this was not going to be possible. The transitions are choppy, the scenes often full of unnecessary filler moments, and the different storylines are weaved together in a dizzying array.
What just happened? When did these characters come into play? What is so important about Wil being in the shower? These are the kinds of questions I found myself asking the majority of this drama.
My brain was constantly flung through the shots in a crazy ride that went a little something like this:
Drunk club sequence. [scene cut]
Jimmy sleeping with a woman. [scene cut]
Madam Tusha realizing she has no vacant rooms, which leaves Jimmy without a place to stay. [scene cut]
Joey makes friends with a dorm plant, naming it Planty. [scene cut]
Wil appears, a mysterious character who seems to fall in love with Joey at first sight. [scene cut]
Awkward first, overly sharing conversation between Joey and Wil. [scene cut]
Joey in a shower. [scene cut]
A very drunk Jimmy is deposited in Joey’s room by Madam Tusha. [scene cut]
Jimmy wakes up demanding to know who Joey is. [scene cut]
Wil enters his first day of class. [scene cut]
Jimmy and Joey are still fighting. [scene cut]
Jelai introduces herself to Wil but is brushed off. [scene cut]
Jimmy and Joey are still fighting. [scene cut]
A late Joey runs into Nuan on his way to class. [scene cut]
Nuan, Joey, and Wil decide to join the drama club. [scene cut]
Awkward car scene between Wil and Joey. [scene cut]
Joey and Jimmy face off again at the dorms. [scene cut]
Another Wil shower scene. [scene cut]
Rather than interlace the supporting characters’ stories with a more cohesive larger plot with the main characters, there are spurts of storylines thrown at the audience.
At some point, the stories start to come together and the bigger picture is presented, but there are a lot of storylines. Like the dizzying scene display above, the storylines are randomly thrown out. Jimmy and Wil both have parents who have cheated. Both have slept with the same woman, who later ends up pregnant. Nuan is adopted by a man who has fallen in love and in lust with his son. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. Kenji, a character portrayed by French Solano, is a student advisor who makes an unexpected move on Joey by kissing him, therefore beginning a forbidden teacher/student concept. Nuan, Wil, and Kenji are all in love with Joey who can’t decide exactly what he wants relationship-wise because of his academic pursuits. Jimmy secretly takes in his pregnant girlfriend, hiding her in Joey and Jimmy’s dorm. Jimmy’s mother is dealing with depression, and she ends up in a mental hospital. The plots seem never-ending, the constant flow of new stories like darts being thrown into the viewers’ heads.
Again, confused yet?
Amore is a well acted drama with good transexual representation, but it seems like it is still trying to find itself, as if it doesn’t quite understand its own identity yet.
I love that Amore presents us with so many full secondary storylines, but because it attempts to give us so many stories in the first nine episodes alone, doing this takes away from the main characters and the main theme. There came a point for me when Jimmy and Joey began feeling more like a secondary couple rather than the main driving plot of the drama.
Also, I will admit that I found the way so many people seemed attracted to Joey off-putting. His character is likable and handsome, but with three different men already pining and hurting over him, I found myself questioning his level of allure. Not because he isn’t attractive. He is, largely so. It simply felt like the drama was trying to pound this fact into the viewers with the amount of secondary characters flocking toward him. That said, I also found myself wanting to buy whatever bottle of pheromones he’s applying as cologne.
The drama also suffers from badly transitioned time jumps. For the life of me, I could not understand how so much was happening so fast in this drama until I realized through randomly placed dialogue or actions that sometimes days or weeks had passed. There were no consistent and coherent time shifts. For example, one moment, Jimmy’s girlfriend, Princess, had just discovered she was pregnant, and then the next, she was six months into her term. And then suddenly, POP! They have a baby.
While production noted the audio issues, there seemed to be little improvement in this area’s first nine or so episodes. The background noises in the drama are strange, especially the ever-present chickens and banging noises. There are a few continuity issues, for example, the pillows on the bed in Jimmy and Joey’s dorm changing patterns several times in the same scene, but all in all, it came together well.
The acting is great, especially the two leads, which is really important to me. Some of the supporting casts are a little stiff, but I expect that more in the first few episodes as the actors start getting a feel for their characters. The transitions are choppy, and the audio has issues, but the Pandemic has caused many problems with filming quality in general. Overall, the story is good, and I’m certainly interested in this drama’s second and third chapters.
With a little editing and more attention spent on the main driving plot, Amore has the potential for greatness. It falls slightly short in its identity crisis. I think the writers are trying to tell too many stories at once rather than focusing on smaller, more intimate plots.
Memorable Scenes Worth Mentioning
It is important to note that there are quite a few scenes and moments that leave a deep impression. For this reason alone, this show is worth the watch. Most memorable among them are when Joey talks about forgiveness with Jimmy, the scene where Joey calls Wil out for being judgmental about Brenda and Jelai and the way Madam Tusha treats all of her tenants as if they are her sons.
In one of the biggest BL tropes of all time, there is a scene where Jimmy and Joey trip, and Jimmy ends up landing on top of Joey. A mirror falls on top of them, pushing them even closer together. Madam Tusha walks in, sees the scene, and immediately screams, which alerts Wil. Wil arrives, and suddenly, everyone is witness to the entire incident. Madam Tusha is all “next time lock the door” before telling her boyfriend to pick up her boobs. I admit I laughed out loud at this, and it was a much-needed distraction from the chaos of the other storylines.
Also, there are very poignant moments when Joey shares himself with the characters around him. He wants to be a writer, and I relate to his dreams. The way he looks at life is a clear sign that he’s on the right career path. His love of fireflies especially touched me because they represented the people in his life who had departed.
However, the best line in the entire first chapter of this drama is uttered by Jelai when she says,
“Love does not promote hate.”
So, I will leave this review with this line in mind.
Despite the cons, it has the basic qualities needed to make a good drama, and I am interested in seeing just how Jimmy and Joey’s love story ultimately unfolds.