In mainstream media, the realm of rom-coms is glaringly dominated by heterosexual-led narratives, with queer characters usually relegated to supporting roles for mere comic relief. And even with queer-centric content, stories are most often of heavier, more serious subject matter. But “Hello Stranger The Movie” proves that a queer love story can propel a light-hearted rom-com just as well as its straight counterpart.
Starring Tony Labrusca and JC Alcantara, “Hello Stranger The Movie” is a film sequel to the 2020 hit boys’ love (BL) web series of the same name, and ABS-CBN Films and Black Sheep Productions’ first BL movie offering—with a Valentine’s weekend release, no less.
Set several months after the series, the film sees Xavier and Mico, played by Labrusca and Alcantara, respectively, finally outside of the confines of their computer screens and in a beautiful resort with the rest of their classmates for a writing camp called “Paniticamp,” albeit in a rather awkward place emotionally, following a sad fallout of their could’ve-been relationship teased at the end of the series’ finale.
Director Dweinylane Baltazar took on the film to shed light on love stories of the LGBTQIA+ community, which are underrepresented even until this day.
“Who doesn’t want to be a part of something that’s as game changing as ‘Hello Stranger?’ It’s a first for mainstream cinema, as we’re all used to romance between hetero couples. Being an ally, when I was offered to direct this film, I didn’t need to think twice!” enthused Baltazar.
For a key scene in the film, the karaoke session in particular, she looked to an iconic moment in Cathy Garcia-Molina’s 2008 blockbuster rom-com “A Very Special Love” to emulate.
“We studied the videoke scene of John Lloyd and Sarah,” not to imitate the said scene exactly, she clarified, “but I wanted to make sure that we were able to capture the feelings presented and that audiences would feel the same way watching Xavier and Mico’s love story.”
On working with Tony and JC, Direk Dwein has nothing but good things to say about his two leading men.
“Tony is a perfectionist. He is committed to his role. JC worries me at times, because he always gives his 101 percent. I really loved witnessing how they take care and support each other. They’re some of the most generous actors I’ve worked with.”
Should a second “Hello Stranger” movie happen, Baltazar is more than willing to sit in the director’s chair once again. On where she wants to take the story: “I definitely want to see Xavier and Mico navigate this world wherein they’re already in a relationship, including their ups and downs, and the struggles of being an LGBTQIA+ couple in a heteronormative world, just so we could bring this to light pa with our common viewers. Let us talk about it, challenge our audience, and normalize all kinds of love.”
Ultimately, the film doesn’t aim to bring anything novel plot-wise or subvert a beloved genre entirely. In fact, it is proof of the universality of love, that the rom-com formula can be just as “kilig” and compelling with two guys (or anyone, really) at the forefront.
Sweet, funny, and earnest, “Hello Stranger” is a classic, well-executed feel-good rom-com that hopefully paves the way for more queer rom-coms in mainstream cinema in the coming years.
Watch “Hello Stranger The Movie” via KTX.ph, iWant TFC, TFC IPTV, Cignal PPV, Sky PPV, and Amazon Prime Video. All eight episodes of “Hello Stranger” (the series) are also available to watch on Black Sheep’s YouTube channel.