Cathy Garcia-Molina’s Hello, Love, Goodbye, like most other romances churned out by Star Cinema, opens with a voiceover.
Joy (Kathryn Bernardo) is standing in the middle of the airport, gazing at the board showing flight statuses, waiting as it finally shows that the flight going to Manila is cancelled. Her voiceover talks of transience and how Hong Kong, the city where she works, is a place that is not meant for long-term dedication as it is just a stop-over.
What happens after is more fascinating.
In what could be the film’s first bid to imbibe not just its setting’s vibe but also its main character’s sentiments, Garcia-Molina orchestrates a robustly edited montage of Joy’s life in Hong Kong over her narration of all her frustrations. The collection of images of Joy’s routine over a frazzled chase through the metropolis’ dingy alleyways is capped by a moment where she meets Ethan (Alden Richards).
There are two ways to view Hello, Love, Goodbye.One is as a fictionalized depiction of the lives of a Hong Kong-domestic helper as seen through the experiences of Joy. In fact, the film takes its time to depict this world, stripping the city of its typical glamour and luxuries by exposing its streets and walkways littered with cardboard mattings populated by tired Filipinas finally living the life. There is a genuine effort by Garcia-Molina not to adorn the hardships with gloss and gratuities as she exhausts (within the constraints of the genre) all the details that mark the inequity domestic helpers experience just to earn a living. Here we find the film’s strengths and its most enduring moments. Clearly, Garcia-Molina has a heart for the plight of the domestic helpers, peppering her film with scenes and exchanges that, in true melodramatic fashion, relay the entire gamut of sacrifices that these women have to endure. Joy, after witnessing her mother (Maricel Laxa) glossing over her Chinese husband’s physical abuses, meets a former flame in a tram. He tells her he’s on vacation with his new wife and is going back to the Philippines after spending years as a nurse abroad. Joy, who is also a nurse, stomachs the embarrassment of telling him that she has ended up a domestic helper, just like her mother. In one quick moment, we see Sally (Kakai Bautista), the always jovial friend of Joy, in tears as she laments being forced to go home by her family.