It’s safe to assume that majority of Filipinos are romantics, as concepts like panliligaw and harana exist up to this day. The hugot is known as a witty way to express the lows when it comes to loving someone. Pick-up lines, on the other hand, are corny, sometimes funny ways to flirt with other people. Filipino languages also have extensive translations of “love”; sinta, giliw, irog, mahal, palangga, uyab, and dayong all amount to the same emotion, the same human sensation.
Due to its universality, romance is a recurring theme in the media and the arts. Anyone and everyone experiences love at one point in their lives, so it only makes sense that romance sells. Many romantic comedies, independent or mainstream, are generated every year, and yet they still manage to garner the attention of Filipino audiences.
Ang Babaeng Allergic sa Wi-Fi, directed by Jun Lana, is no different.
The film’s main point is to depict that the truest form of love knows no boundaries or limits. Unconditional love plays a big role in this story. Even though Aries (Jameson Blake) is miles away from Norma (Sue Ramirez), with no signal coverage in her grandmother’s home, he would still go to great lengths just to make Norma happy. Plus points for Aries because he isn’t the stereotypical “nice guy,” waiting for something in return.
The film is aesthetically pleasing. If it were a dessert, it would be a slice of Brazo de Mercedes: very sweet and illuminatingly yellow. Norma’s outfits always have a hint of the color, may it be her cardigan, her dress, or her headband. Even her vintage Volkswagen Beetle in the beginning of the film gleams in a bright yellow. Overall, the film’s color grading leans towards warmer, more vibrant tones, which is perfect for the type of love Lana wants to portray –– the pure, passionate kind of love Aries has for the leading lady.
The production design is impressive, from the characters’ university (a fictional Catholic University of the Philippines) to the rustic home belonging to Norma’s grandmother, with little knick knacks and antiques on wooden shelves. Staying true to its title, the film made use of props that scream nostalgia — recorders, typewriters, polaroids, and phonographs are seen in varying scenes. The mix of nostalgia and warmth in the film’s design complements the story’s light, homey mood well.
But despite the film’s stunning visuals and heartfelt moments, it fails to establish strong audience impact.
Ang Babaeng Allergic Sa Wifi is sweet and cheery, like a dessert –– although not filling enough to be the main course. Concepts are presented to the audience without much complication, making it easy to digest, but just as easy to forget. Its stand on social media is nothing new; lessons like “There’s life outside of our screens.” or “Do not let social media control your life.” are all things we’ve heard before.
While there are emotional scenes that would make the audience shed a few tears and reaffirm its theme of unconditional love, these may be all the film is. Lana’s team could have taken their message a little bit further, or perhaps repackaged it in a way that would make the film stand out against the conglomerate of rom-coms we see every year.
Still, we have to give credit where it’s due: Jun Lana manages to pull off a tasteful rom-com that is enough to satisfy the Filipino cravings for charming love stories. Studios have become a bit more adventurous with their decisions, creating fresh new alternatives to the usual rom-com tropes. The banter between Aries and his sidekick Macha is humorous. The decision to name Norma’s best friend Margaux, since she spread fake news on Norma’s leave, is clever (for reference, Mocha Uson’s full name is Esther Margaux Uson). And Aries’ efforts for Norma will make you swoon.
Overall, Ang Babaeng Allergic sa Wi-Fi is an enjoyable tale about young love. It is able to grasp the basic elements hopeless romantic Filipinos look for in a rom-com, its old school courting appealing to the masses. Aries’ character is also the ideal lover most of us aspire for compared to his brother Leo (Markus Paterson): the former is patient and understanding, but most of all, he has respect for the person he loves.
The film is light, simple, and fun, just like our favorite fluffy pastry; it will do, but it could have done more.