Confetti and balloons line the floor as Janine Gutierrez and Enchong Dee stand together for the ultimate awkward prom pictures. Janine adjusts her corsage and Enchong’s hands hover at her waist, both of them flashing endearingly nervous smiles. The disco lights are flashing and the retro pop playlist is in full swin, serving up She & Him one moment and Maggie Rogers the next.
Enchong summarizes it best when he observes, “Parang Lady Bird.”
Both actors liken their movie Elise, which came out earlier this month, to classic films, and even mashups. Enchong says it’s “Juno meets Forrest Gump.” It reminded Janine of her favorite movie, Almost Famous. But Elise, she notes, isn’t so easy to pin down if you haven’t seen it.
Directed and co-written by Joel Ferrer, and based on his own experiences, Elise tells a story of a first love lost and found. It’s framed from the point of view of Enchong’s character Bert, remembering his childhood sweetheart Elise, played by Janine, with whom he has crossed paths again after several years.
Critics and audiences fell in love with Elise — Philbert Dy called it a “masterpiece,” and Oggs Cruz deemed it a “lovely film” with elements that “beautifully collide.” It turns out that good writing and good acting make all the difference: Enchong and Janine were lauded for their performances, seen as experimental and career-defining steps away from (and above) their previous work.