Never not love this: a JaDine filmography

It is testament to the power and popularity of a Filipino love team that the announcement of their break-up is classified and transmitted as breaking news. When James Reid and Nadine Lustre announced on Jan. 20 that they had gone their separate ways, news outlets breathlessly followed the story, fans stayed up, fellow celebrities weighed in and their names were the top two trending topics on Twitter.

Love teams that capture the public imagination are nothing new in the star- and romance-crazy Philippines. Additionally, Reid and Lustre’s real-life romance added to their trajectory; not for nothing were they dubbed “Team Real.”

But JaDine (pronounced Jay-Deen, a portmanteau of James and naDINE, with their fans known as JaDines), arrived at a particular time and in a particular space that became the exemplar of what love teams can be—together they were far more influential, successful and popular than individually. Reid’s modern rebel and Lustre’s girl next door persona evolved into a rare combination of sizzle and style. Reid would become a music producer and Lustre would be named FHM Philippines’ Sexiest Woman. And they aspired to be much more than what those labels implied.

Now that they have broken up, they will pursue separate, different paths and JaDines will undoubtedly follow and support them still. Yet the fans will look back at this pairing as the one that helped define them–for good reason.

The Filipino-Australian Robert James Marquinez Reid and Nadine Alexis Paguia Lustre were charting separate showbiz trajectories despite similarities in their interests: music and movies. ABS-CBN actually concocted the pairing in 2014 on a story arc of the show “Wansapanataym Presents” called “My App #Boyfie.” It was obviously a promising pairing as it was one of three (yes, three!) projects they would do just in 2014.

Considering how popular Reid and Lustre are, it is surprising how few onscreen projects JaDine really had, and how much the quality varies from project to project. The furor over the couple’s break-up has fans looking back at the JaDine phenomenon and bringing non-fans into the fold. It also shines a light on their TV and movie work together, something that is a worthwhile activity.

Now, Super reviews the love team’s filmography, though we are skipping 2015’s “The Beauty and the Bestie” because they are hardly in that anyway. Here are the JaDine TV shows and movies in chronological order, plus our recommendations whether to watch them or not.

“Diary ng Panget” (2014)

The year 2014 was indeed a very busy time for Reid and Lustre; “Diary” was their first movie together. Based on the best-selling Wattpad novels by Deny R. (then known as HaveYouSeenThisGirl), the movie was directed by Andoy Ranay, also starting the trend of the two working with certain directors. The books’ existing fanbase not only allowed this movie to be made but also brought unsuspecting fans to a love team that was truly unknown at the time. This goofy, somewhat meandering comedy featured the titular self-dubbed “Panget,” Eya Rodriguez (Lustre) winding up working essentially as the Girl Friday for the rich, spoiled Cross Sandford (Reid). What “Diary” offered up was a very early but palpable glimpse of the two’s chemistry, something that Viva Entertainment fortunately kept trying to tinker with long enough that would eventually bear fruit. This is good to watch because you really can see the promise even at this very early point.

“Talk Back and You’re Dead” (2014)

Based on a novel Alesana Marie, “Talk Back” was one of two Viva movies Reid and Lustre worked on in 2014; it is two of three directed by Ranay. Even the most devoted fans can’t make heads or tails of this one. Featuring Reid as Top and Nadine as Sammy, this twisty romance is virtually impossible to summarize. “Talk Back” tries to be edgy and then soapy at differet points. It had gangs, secret siblings and a bizarre cliffhanger that has never been resolved to this day; there was supposed to be a sequel that never got made. That may be a good thing, as this is easily Reid and Lustre’s worst film together, an unintelligible mish-mash of elements that at least kept the two on the big screen. Consider this a hard pass.

“Para sa Hopeless Romantic” (2015)

Based on another best-selling novel, this one by Marcelo Santos III, “Hopeless Romantic” is not as bad as “Talk Back,” but not for lack of trying. Reid and Lustre are the best parts of this rather wan effort. The metafictional elements—Becca (Lustre) is trying to write a novel that is played out on screen (the fictional characters are played by Julia Baretto and Inigo Pascual)—are clever and her creative process is constantly interrupted when she has to deal with her ex-boyfriend Nikko (Reid). Otherwise, this one can be skipped as well. Just don’t skip the next one for any reason.

“On the Wings of Love” (2015)

Good thing the next project would be the transformative one. This series is the definitive JaDine experience and the codifier for the fandom. It set the structure for the rest of their projects together and won over the viewing public like a wave. It swept up both Reid and Lustre into true celebrity status and was the first time the JaDine (as a fandom) was born. It also gave us the acronym (“OTWOL”) that the series is better known as. This is also the first of three project Reid and Lustre would do with Antoinette Jadaone, who was coming off the critical and commercial success of the 2014 film “That Thing called Tadhana.” This was Jadaone’s first TV series as director and she brought her trademark mix of whimsy and realism to a Filipino relationship. It tackled everything from the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers, illegal Filipino immigrants in the US and the clash between career and the heart, a recurring theme in later JaDine-Jadaone collaborations.

Leah Olivar (Lustre), an otherwise well-behaved girl, goes TNT in San Francisco to provide income for her ill father Sol (Joel Torre). It is there she meets the brooding Clark (Reid), and the two get married solely so Leah can stay in the US without being deported—she pays him with whatever little she has. The opposing forces soon meet as Leah and Clark find themselves falling for each other. It doesn’t go off without hitches, including a trip back home for the two, misunderstandings and the presence of Leah’s boss Simon (the charismatic Paulo Avelino).

We get the couple’s chemistry at full blast here, something that would be rationed out in the next outings. This is where the fiction and the reality converges. Like Clark and Leah, Reid and Lustre famously began this particular project not liking each other but, after spending enough time together, really do fall for each other. This culminated in a live episode at the Ynares Center where the two professed their love for each other. Live events are not a common thing even among the most successful teleseryes, and “OTWOL’s” daring in doing so remains unprecedented. Plus try getting that theme song (Kyla’s cover of Jeffrey Osbourne’s original) out of your head.

If you have to watch just one JaDine project, it should be this one. Watching this show today, half a decade after is was made, it is very hard not to be won over by the couple’s genuine affection for each other. It is the start of their exploration of contemporary Filipino romance—enabled by Jadaone—and “OTWOL” is the optimistic, winning beginning. This is a must-watch.

“This Time” (2016)

Directed by Nuel Naval (“The Love Affair”), this movie has a cute premise. Coby (Reid) and Ava (Lustre) grow up spending only the summers together; this connection becomes stronger and changes as they reach young adulthood, struggling to overcome the distance and misunderstandings. Reid and Lustre are pleasant to watch in this very pretty if by-the-numbers JaDine film. It emphasized the importance of defining the parameters of a romantic relationship, something a bit ironic considering JaDine were very much a public couple at this point. Based a bit on a novel by Aly Almario, “This Time” is more notable for its smart deployment of an earlier comedic love team, Freddie Webb and Nova Villa, in a gorgeous Japan set piece. Cute as a diversion, but unnecessary.

“Till I Met You” (2016)

Jadaone’s second outing with JaDine has the director coming off “Tadhana,” but here the goal is clearly to replicate OTWOL. Instead of San Francisco, “TIMY” (yes, acronyms) is set in Greece.  Iris (Lustre) and Basti (Reid) make cute but get enmeshed in a love triangle with Ali (JC Santos). The show then makes an unexpected turn for the provocative and the serious. Ali develops feelings for both Iris AND Basti. There’s an unusual love quadrangle between Basti’s father Nestor (Zoren Legaspi), Iris’ mom Cass (Carmina Villaroel), Cass’ friend Ateng (Pokwang) and her best friend Val, now Nestor’s wife (Angel Aquino). “TIMY” dares to tackle issues like sex, cohabitation and parental control. It also features an unusually tempestuous on-and-off relationship between the leads, something other shows would never touch. Jadaone juggles a lot here but somehow it works. “TIMY” suffered a bit because it paled in comparison to “OTWOL,” but almost anything would be (note the almost, see below). The Greek scenes are even prettier than Japan, and JaDine are just in cruise control here, almost fully aware of their powers. If “OTWOL” was the optimistic beginning, then “TIMY” is the exploration of that evolution, when the honeymoon is over and it’s time to take stock of whether or not it all works. This is the second part of the JaDine-Jadaone trilogy of modern Filipino romance, so that makes it a must-watch; it all culminates in the final installment.

“Never Not Love You” (2018)

In many ways, “Never” puts the “OTWOL” formula on its head. Joanne (Lustre) works trying to make her way up a media agency in Makati while Gio (Reid) is a wannabe tattoo artist living off his father’s money. An errand results in the two of them meeting, and sparks fly. Gio has to adjust when he is cut off; he goes to London to work as an artist, Joanne gives up her career to be with him and winds up a server. It’s too much for her and returns to Manila. Can they survive? Jadaone presents what may be the most grown-up portrait of Pinoy romance ever as the theme of career and love truly come crashing into each other in the most realistic way. It is ironic that this proved to be their last onscreen collab. Viewers will take sides; the movie’s ambiguous ending and how you interpret it reveals how much of a romantic you really are. Its cityscapes constitute a love letter to Makati office life and romance. Most of all, Reid and Lustre give their best performances together in a lived-in, loved-in, spot-on portrayal that stands for the ending of the JaDine-Jadaone trilogy. They’re all at the height of their powers. Definitely, a must-watch.

In the wake of the break-up, in the intersection of the public and the private, the romantic and the commercial, the reel and, yes, the real, the dissolution of JaDine invokes so much emotion because of how significant the pairing was in the contemporary Filipino psyche, how much the fans invested emotionally in them, and how followers have one less thing to believe in. We will be JaDines forever.

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