It’s no secret that Filipinos love a good ol’ romantic-comedy flick, and more so if it follows the classic friends-to-lovers trope we’ve so devotedly consumed through the years. But that is not what My Amanda aspires to be.
At its core, the Netflix original film follows a story about friendship, and that invaluable love between two people who think the world of each other. Directed and starred by first-time director Alessandra de Rossi (Amanda), with co-producer and co-star Piolo Pascual (TJ), the film trails the journey of the lead characters as they traverse the world of love and life where the only constant thing is their deep care for each other.
Since its announcement, the film has garnered a considerable amount of support from Filipino fans, especially with it being de Rossi’s directorial debut and Pascual’s first romantic film in a couple of years.
Production still courtesy of Netflix
On top of that, since the release of the official trailer, the film has since promised a very heartfelt story. But whether or not this pursues the classic friends-to-lovers arc, or something else, many are growing more and more eager to find out as evidenced with the continuing stay of the film in the streaming service’s most watched content since its release.
But this is a different take on love, or so de Rossi vows. As the director, writer, and producer of My Amanda, the seasoned actress shared during the Netflix press conference how she wanted to present a rare and sincere friendship where a guy and girl can be just friends. Having her own “TJ” in real life in the form of some of her best guy friends, she wanted to share with Filipinos that platonic friendships are possible, and sometimes even more valuable.
“The story is very personal to me because it’s about my friendships, literally. My guy best friend’s name is TJ, so I just used the real name and how we call each other. But, of course, the story has nothing to do with real life. I just used the dynamics of our friendship because I wanted to share a different kind of love story. It’s a friendship that’s intimate and not superficial, and rare, and sincere. That’s what I wanted to talk about because all Filipinos are fans of rom-coms, and this one’s a different take on love,” she explained.
My Amanda writer, director, and producer Alessandra De Rossi. Image courtesy of Netflix.
The directorial hat also landed on her head because no one else wanted to touch the story in a film-consuming nation where romance is the most beloved. “They found it a little bit unbelievable [and impossible], but how dare [they],” she joked.
De Rossi added, “I have the closest friendships with men, or boys. It’s something I wanted to share with Filipinos, that a guy and a girl can be friends. Because I don’t want people to always be beside the opposite sex and think there’s some sexual tension. I want people to treasure friendships and appreciate them as they are.”
This message, and lesson per se, was also absorbed deeply by Pascual, who admitted he learned a lot from his character’s relationship with Amanda. He shared that de Rossi brought her real-life TJ on set a few times, and it was an opportune time for him to just watch and observe their friendship dynamics play out with one another. “I observed it all and took it from there,” he expressed.
“If you really have the purest of intentions, then it is possible to not cross the line and just be there for each other, be there for that person that you value the most. Because no matter how many relationships I’ve had in this film, she was always there. No matter how loud she was, how annoying she could get. She was always there. And that’s what I needed. I didn’t want to talk, I just needed to be with her. It made so much sense in the end. Basically, I learned from this film that it can be possible,” Pascual furthered.
My Amanda lead actor and co-producer Piolo Pascual. Image courtesy of Netflix.
As this is Alessandra de Rossi’s directorial debut, on top of her roles as lead actress, writer, and producer, she also opened up about her experience wearing so many hats in front and behind the camera. Bluntly, the acclaimed actress behind many well-received independent and mainstream films here and overseas, admitted to have failed in enjoying the process of directing while also being the actress. Most scenes required her to only see the shot in previews, making it impossible for her to fully capture what she wanted to create without seeing it as it’s being filmed.
When making decisions as the director, she also had to adjust the script as the writer, and so on. The whole experience led her to be hospitalized three times in two weeks post-shooting. “She was taking in so much, and it was taking a toll on her physically. She was getting disappointed, frustrated, because of the things she wanted and then hindi magagawa. She was taking on so much stuff that she couldn’t express,” Pascual revealed.
In fact, de Rossi noted that the hardest part about the experience was being the director, actress, writer, and producer, all at the same time. In the future, she expressed her eagerness to direct again without the pressures and worries of other roles. She wanted to get the full directing experience behind the camera.
Production still courtesy of Netflix
Co-producer Pascual commended de Rossi’s collaborative spirit, noting how this was his easiest role to date. He noted that TJ and Amanda are products of the pair just being themselves, and letting their natural chemistry flow. And it truly shows in the film’s dialogue and heart.
The film has been backed up by Netflix for a global release and promotion, and both actors and creators welcomed this collaboration with open arms. As two veteran actors in the Philippine film industry who have been part of the community for decades, the two proudly believe it’s about time Filipino stories get the distribution, support, and recognition they deserve.
Pascual expressed, “I’ve always wanted to showcase Filipino films in the international market. Netflix took a risk getting our film and launching it globally, but I feel like we have a voice. And that voice needs to be heard globally. I’m just happy that they gave us this chance to do it, and I hope it would open doors for more Filipino filmmakers to do it in a global perspective.”
From the trailer alone, My Amanda already seems like a promising story to propel local storytellers forward with, and it’s primarily because of its take on friendship and love that we hardly ever really see in mainstream Filipino films. As the two put it, it’s always the expectation that two people will fall in love as if it’s a given. But their film beautifully shows how there is so much more to it than romance.
“What I appreciated about TJ was I had Amanda the whole time. Journeying with her made me feel like I was complete, regardless if I was seeing somebody, if I was in love with somebody. But because of my constant love for her that was always present, it brought us to a place wherein we were both gifted by something better than what we expected,” Pascual mused.
Production still courtesy of Netflix.
de Rossi then urged viewers to watch it with an open heart. “No judgment, just acceptance, and don’t say anything like a true friend would,” she quipped. For Pascual, he then encouraged would-be viewers to see beyond the relationships: “The relationship between TJ and Amanda is just an icing on the cake. What happens, what transpires, through the course of time and what happens because of that relationship is the true gem of the film. That’s why you have to watch it.”
Pascual and de Rossi’s love for the film definitely got us even more excited to see what the story will hold. But perhaps the greater curiosity we can’t wait to see is how the Filipino and global audience will respond to this “different take on love.”
As far as Filipino films go, we’ve never really had that many stories centered on platonic relationships before, and this certainly will open discussions and normalize the fact that two people can be soulmates without ever falling in love. And truly, it proves that companionships are not any less valuable than romantic relationships. In TJ and Amanda’s case, it might even be more precious.
My Amanda is now streaming on Netflix.