She's Dating the Gangster is a 2014 Philippine teen romantic comedy-drama film based on a bestselling novel of the same name by Bianca Bernardino.note
Athena Dizon (Kathryn Bernardo) plays a trick on campus heartthrob and bad-boy gangster, Kenji de los Reyes (Daniel Padilla). He sets up an arrangement for them to pose as lovers to make his ex jealous. They find themselves falling for each other yet falling apart.
The movie alternates between the 1980s and the present, following another pair portrayed by Bernardo and Padilla: Bernardo plays Kelay Dizon, Athena's niece, and Padilla plays Kenneth, Kenji's son. No, Kelay and Kenneth are not related. Yes....
This film provides examples of:
- Be Yourself: Kenji removes Athena's glasses to make her a more "ideal" fake girlfriend. Later on, however, he not only puts her glasses back on, he begins wearing a pair himself to boost her morale.
- Defrosting Ice King: Kelay and Kenneth's story.
- Genki Girl: Kelay, to the annoyance of Kenneth. Of course, he comes around gradually.
- High-School Sweethearts: Kenji and Athena, as well as Kenji and Athena.note Kelay and Kenneth possibly Avert this, despite being portrayed by teenagers.
- Ill Girl: Abigail. As it turns out, a life-threatening disease afflicts Athena too.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Athena discloses that she had seen Kenji multiple times in their adulthood, prior to their reunion. It satisfied her, knowing he turned out fine in spite of the tragic circumstances that preceded. There is zero (expressed) sadness about Kenji marrying a different person; Kenji clearly loved his son and found happiness in being a parent.
- One Steve Limit: Inverted. Athena having the same first name as Kenji's first love "Abigail" is a major plot point.
- One True Love: Played With and Deconstructed. Kenji and Athena's love is that of two teenagers'. People, especially older viewers, would point out that they can't be sure they'll stay in love forever; thus, taking huge risks, making big promises, and sacrificing plenty for their relationship would be unwise. True enough, the adult Kenji tells his son Kenneth that Kenneth was always his real One True Love, not his high-school sweetheart, and that he realized it from the very beginning of Kenneth's existence. Then again, Kenji and Athena's story was plagued by misfortunes no teenager should experience, and they had the right to be foolish and young taken away from them.
- Product Placement: There's a pretty blatant example early on, with Kelay and Kenneth gorging on KFC. Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla are long-standing endorsers of the restaurant's Philippine branch.
- Star-Crossed Lovers
- Stay with Me Until I Die: In a bittersweet final scene, the adult Kenji and Athena reunite. They're happy. Then, Athena says regretfully that she has to leave again. Kenji accepts the news maturely, unlike the last time, assuring Athena he and all the others who care for her will be okay. He thanks her for everything.Athena: Inaantok na ako, Kenji. (I'm going to sleep, Kenji.)Kenji: [pulls her into an embrace, façade of bravery crumbling as she's dying and tears quietly fall down his face]
- Troubled, but Cute: Kenji in his youth and Kenneth (initially). Athena, who is a Single Girl Seeking Good Boy, tries to ignore Kenji's good looks at first (although she recognizes it) due to his reputation as an unruly teen-gang ringleader. Kelay is the opposite, persistently flirting with Kenneth from the start because he's handsome.
- When He Smiles: Kenneth looks away upon having failed to suppress a smile. Kelay makes him face her again, exclaiming that such beautiful smiles should never be concealed.