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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 10, 2019


ella cruz & louise abuel in EDWARD

jansen magpusao as john denver

mylene dizon and kit thompson in 'BELLE DOULEUR'

FINALLY SAW THE MUCH ACCLAIMED ‘EDWARD’ & ‘JOHN DENVER TRENDING’, both about teenagers who are thrown into situations not of their own liking or design. These are both socially relevant movies that make a comment about society and the human condition, so they are the ones favored to win come the Cinemalaya awards night tomorrow,  Sunday.

They are the opposite of the more accepted escapist entertainment as they deal with harrowing, distressing real life issues. If you’re looking only for feel good movies, you should be warned that these are feel bad movies. We went out of the theater feeling depressed, especially with ‘John Denver’ since an injustice has been committed and there is no vindication at all. Nakakapagngitngit, but we think that’s exactly the film’s goal: to agitate us.

“Edward” shows the sad and sorry state of health care for the poor in our country in our crowded, poorly equipped public hospitals and how the sins of errant, irresponsible fathers adversely affect the lives of their innocent children who cannot choose their parents. But it’s also a beautiful tale of bittersweet first love (with Ella Cruz' as the ill-fated object of affection) and it’s directed by Thop Nazareno of “Kiko Boksingero”. Once again, he gets a splendid performance from his lead young actor.

Noel Comia won as best actor as Kiko and we won’t be surprised if his Edward title roler would also win. Nazareno directs with a sure, firm hand, starting with the long opening tracking sequence inside an ambulance with the camera inside and then it follows the patient being taken to the ER and shows a doctor doing his rounds, interacting with the various other patients and their relatives who are all waiting for treatment.

With this meticulously and beautifully blocked sequence alone, you already know you are in the good hands of a capable filmmaker, compared to the other newbie directors who are given the chance to be a part of Cinemalaya but apparently barely know the rudiments of camera work.

 “John Denver Trending” is reminiscent of such movies as “Cyberbully” (there are actually two such movies, one American and one British) and the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”.  It exposes the tragic effects of bullying and cyberbullying, how people can be so easily judgmental in ostracizing a poor victim  in social media even if they don’t know the whole story yet.

What’s more deplorable is that these merciless bashers don’t even realize the harsh effects of their actions on their young victims whose thoughts and emotions suffer from the devastating effects of such cruelty and abuse. Writer-director Arden Rod Condez makes a very stong debut in this film, reminiscent of Jerrold Tarog’s similarly impressive debut in “Confessional” in Cinema One Originals in 2008. And look at where Tarog is now.

Both films are well acted by their title rolers: Louise Abuel (we don’t know why he has a letter E in his name when he’s a boy) as Edward and Jansen Magpusao as John Denver. Abuel is a former child actor in “100 Days to Heaven”. He starts as a happy, carefree boy but, in the end of his journey, he is a broken young man.

His breakdown scene at the film’s final sequence is will certainly break your heart. Jansen doesn’t have any previous experience but he inhabits his role perfectly even if he has had no previous acting experience. Both of them are shoo in as best actor contenders.

But for best actress, our choice is Mylene Dizon in “Belle Douleur”. The film is a totally engaging character study of Liz, a spinster who just lost the mother she has long been taking care of. Prodded by her “kunsintidora” friends, she then gets into a sweet, non-exploitative love affair with a much younger man who manages an antique shop and moonlights as a band guitarist-vocalist.

It is a joy to watch Mylene Dizon as Liz.  She has a successful career, she’s smart and yes, in her mid-40s, she has remained in pretty good shape and is sexy. There are wordless scenes where the camera just shows her in extreme closeup and her face becomes a beautiful relief map of a wide range of emotions, from her eyes twinkling and fer face lighting up, thrilled when Kit Thompson as Josh first sends her a text message and the following exchange of flirtatious messages they have with each other, to that scene where she learns that Josh wants to have many kids but she cannot because she is barren.

In this last scene, we see Mylene initially reacting by playing with her tonque inside her mouth, then tears slowly well up from her eyes. Mylene’s kind of emoting is totally internal and makes Liz a totally convincing character. You see her reactions in the different, quiet nuances she displays all throughout the film.

This is in complete contrast with the more obvious teleserye kind of acting of other actresses na uma-acting talaga in their dramatic scenes, which is better suited for the TV medium than on the big screen.

Mylene has superb chemistry with Kit Thompson, who is every inch the perfect dreamboat. This movie will surely boost his career as the next big screen heartthrob and eye candy. And the good news is that, acting-wise, he is also able to deliver and hold his own against the more seasoned veteran that Mylene is.

“Belle Douleur” is the full length film debut of Quantum Films producer and award-winning shortfilmmaker Jojo V. Alonso and it’s a fairly favorable, promising work for a neophyte. The production values are very classy, from the fine cinematography to the wonderful music and the production design that shows Liz’ dark, cramped house compared to Josh’ bright and more spacious looking condo, and the beautiful beach scenes they shot in Marinduque.

Atty. Joji is wise to choose a film that is about the plight of a single woman who doesn’t want to anchor her happiness on a man. It’s obviously a feminist material that is near to her heart.

We don’t know if she really went through what Liz experienced in the film but she succeeds in getting a good grip on her material. Her purpose is to show that women should call their own shots as far as their lives is concerned and they should be able to stand on their own decisions without any regret.

It can be painful, yes, but as the title of the fim says, it’s a beautiful kind of pain.

Our only caveat is that the film’s nude scenes have a double standard. We get various opportunities for a leisurely study of Kit’s totally naked backside without any embarrassment or inhibition, but Mylene, who is still obviously hot, doesn’t even have a single one and is even shown making love with her clothes on.

Well, okay, let’s just say her face is more interesting anyway.