Cast: Teejay Marquez, Jerome Ponce, Kat Galang
Language: Filipino with English subtitles
Release details: Streaming on Netflix from 5 July
3 out of 5 stars
This review covers the first four episodes of Ben X Jim.
SINGAPORE — Ben X Jim is a Philippine boys’ love (BL) drama series that stars Teejay Marquez as Benjamin “Ben” Mendoza and Jerome Ponce as Jimson “Jim” Alcantara. Set in a period that reflects the current pandemic situation, the drama follows the story of childhood friends Ben and Jim, who lose touch then reconnect years later during the coronavirus lockdown.
As Ben and Jim catch up with each other’s lives, Ben reveals to Jim that he had been dating guys. Jim is surprised at first, but later reassures Ben, “Whatever makes you happy, I’ll support you. I’ll be there, as a friend.” Little did Jim know, Ben has been having a crush on him since young and wants to be more than just “best friends”.
Ben X Jim, which was first aired on YouTube as a web series, was generally well-received with more than 1.2 million views for each episode. The third episode, which has the most views, even reached almost 2.2 million views. The success for its first season triggered a renewal for a second season — both seasons are now available on Netflix. With the two seasons each having seven to eight episodes, Ben X Jim is a rather easy and fast drama to binge-watch.
While it is great to see Southeast Asian countries, which are relatively more conservative, challenging the BL concept, the plot for Ben X Jim can be a little incoherent at times, especially when it comes to Jim’s feelings. To begin with, Jim only treats Ben as his best friend, but there are multiple times when Jim’s actions and words towards Ben hint at the possibility of something more, such as calling him “wifey”, saying he will protect Ben, and cuddling him to sleep.
Furthermore, it is later revealed that Jim has a girlfriend named Yana, and Jim even asks Ben to help him plan and prepare for his anniversary with Yana. When Ben confesses his feelings for Jim, Jim shows signs of shock, as if it wasn’t obvious enough that Jim means more than a friend to Ben. In a way, the drama is trying to fulfil some of the BL elements early in the story so as to capture the audience, but its plot and character development suffer as a result.
There is also one scene that doesn’t make sense: Jim is anxiously calling Ben, who is busy holding a livestream. Jim even comments on Ben’s livestream, asking him to answer his phone. When Ben continuously ignores his calls, Jim appears at Ben’s place to look for him, and later apologises for not knowing he was busy. If he had commented on Ben’s livestream, he would have known Ben was busy holding a livestream, right?
Nonetheless, the story still has its charms and it is curious to see how things will unfold between Ben and Jim. Apart from Jim’s girlfriend Yana, there is also Olan, Ben’s delivery guy who seemingly has feelings for Ben. The supporting characters, including Ben’s close friend Flo (Kat Galang), will definitely add some spice to the bromance.
Ben X Jim may have loopholes in its plot, but it is still a great attempt at BL from a relatively conservative country. Besides, its English theme song Stars Align by SwaveSound is catchy, which may have you humming along very soon.