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The principles of pleasure and pain

My original title for today’s column should have been “Sex, Lies, and Videotapes.” However, I don’t want to be accused of copying the title of the film that catapulted Steven Soderbergh to motion picture A-lister prominence, and yes, almost every film geek knows that it starred James Spader when he was still at his yummiest.

These words played in my mind because they captured the essence of the Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Untrue.

Yes, there are sex scenes a plenty and the sexual love moans coming from the character during their sexual congresses can make the virgins blush and uninhibited envious.  

Affirmative on the lies, because like the story of Mara and Joachim, given life by Cristine Reyes and Xian Lim, unfolds,  to decipher who among these two demented individuals hold the truth sacred and who is the master or mistress of twisted and perverted lies, is not an easy pick.

A scene from Viva Films' 'Untrue' starring Cristine Reyes and Xian Lim
A scene from Viva Films' 'Untrue' starring Cristine Reyes and Xian Lim
And of course, a video recording of a truly kinky sex act between a hunky guidance counselor and a nubile femme will truly jolt one’s predictable existence, add the fact that it accidentally became a public delight and spectacle, well, we are all guilty as charged as this story arc is happening on a daily basis, for real. 

Pardon me from getting ahead of my review of this second film, written and directed by Bernardo after the mammoth hit that was Kita Kita, which lorded the Philippine cinema box office some two years ago.

In a nutshell, the film tells the story of Mara Villanueva (Reyes) and Joachim Castro (Lim), two Filipinos by chance met in this Gotham-like country of Georgia. 

Choosing Georgia as the location for this film is genius because there is a foreboding, even sinister quality to the places presented in the film. So many stones and statues that exacerbated that feeling of being alone and detached, devoid of real, human connection, the cruelty of the weather condition and an all-male quintet that sings in their native tongue on the street where you walk, are hardcore eerie and spooky elements.  

Mara is a newbie to Georgia who just arrived three months ago, while Joachim has been living in it for half-a-decade and has a vineyard as his main source of income and power. 

Cristine Reyes and Xian Lim

As expected, the two Pinoys gravitated towards each other, tied the knot and before we wish them their happily ever after, we all see Mara inside the local police station, reporting that her husband is gone.

Now, the intriguing part of the film transpires, the he-said-she-said versions of Mara and Joachim, acted out by Reyes and Lim with a ferocious commitment to the truth that their characters consider as sacred. As the two share how their “love story” evolved, from strangers to lovers, to who is this person I am living with was shared by the duo with honesty so raw, one becomes so involved with their reveals. Who do we believe? Who gets our sympathies and hugs? Who do we crucify?

As Mara, Reyes was excellent in this film. One part, she is vulnerable and so caring, the other side of her, vindictive, full of rage and wrath. When she speaks about her woes and struggles with Joachim, you want to care for her and save her from the domestic mess she is in but when you witness that she knows how to scheme, calculate, plot out and make her revenge a reality, you know that Reyes did her homework. She is a heavyweight best actress contender in the 2020 awards season. 

Lim, as Joaquim, I loved. So refreshing to watch him shedding off his well-groomed, squeaky clean image that has become too boring to a fault. Hefty, scruffy, dangerous looked good on him. Cristine and Xian shared a different kind of chemistry that is both sugar and spice and all that is nice, combined with the tempestuous and a love that can kill you slowly but surely. To see them act and take the challenge of giving life to characters that are extraordinary are testaments to their commitment to their craft as actors.

Another truly committed performance was delivered by newcomer Rhen Escano who plays Ana, a schoolgirl who became Joachim’s kryptonite. is an important character in the film also delivered a solid performance. Rhen’s character delivers a plot twist that changes the film’s landscape. 

Kudos to director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo for giving a brave cinematic gem that pulls all the strings and punches, the attention and captivates the viewers with a Filipino psychological thriller which we have not seen in cinemas for the longest time. 

Untrue is not an easy watch because it presents to us the horrors of a fictional relationship that started from sweet and how it reached sour and bitter proportions, is truly jolting and riveting. Bet your hard-earned pesos on this one. 

Untrue is currently showing in cinemas nationwide. 

Topics: Untrue , Sigrid Andrea Bernardo , Cristine Reyes ,  Xian Lim
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