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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.

Mar 25, 2023



AS A director, Jun Lana is so fortunate that he enjoys both artistic and commercial success as he has won both international and local awards for films like “Bwakaw”, “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”, “Barber’s Tales” and “Kalel, 15”.

And he also did blockbuster hits that click with viewers, like “Die Beautiful”, “The Panti Sisters”, “Haunted Mansion” and “Dalawang Mrs. Reyes”. 

In other words, he is a true master of the filmmaking craft both as award-winning and box office director.  

He now comes up with another award-winning film, “About But Not About Us”, which won the best picture award at the 26th Tallin Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia last November, one of the largest film festivals in Europe. 

It is a film that is both at once simple and complex. Simple as it has only one location, a restaurant, and it has only two characters who just converse with each other from start to end, reminiscent of the “Before Sunset/ Sunrise” hit films. 

But in the process of the two men talking, secrets and past traumas are uncovered, exploring themes of loss and grief, art and identity. Its veiled complexity will be a challenge to the viewer who look only for light escapist entertainment.   

Lana is so blessed that he is very well served by his two very competent actors who both give compelling performances. 

Romnick Sarmenta, getting his best role in years, play Eric, an English U.P. professor who doesn’t conceal his sexual preference, while Elijah Canlas plays Lance, his former student who’s now a budding writer. 

We learn that Elijah is suffering from severe trauma as he is physically abused by his stepdad, which is allowed by his own mom.. Romnick has rescued him by offering him to stay in his condo unit, with no strings attached.

Both Romnick and Elijah started as child actors and it’s Elijah’s luck that he was given early on good challenging roles that has yielded him acting awards both here and abroad.   

They both succeed marvelously in bringing their characters to life on screen so effectively, going through an entire wide range of emotions as they collaborate on exploring the journey and the world of two men who comed from different generations but are both gay, though they have varied motivations and aspirations.  

Lana has admitted in interviews that part of the film is auto-biographical, like Elijah’s being an abused child, and writing the script during the pandemic is cathartic for him as it allowed him to face and purge some dark elements of his past.   

He acknowledges that his film is theatrical and it can really be staged as a long one-act play as there are only two main characters and all their conversation happens in just one setting with one table and two chairs. 

The wonder of it all is that the setup works and the film, which runs for an hour and a half, is totally riveting, what with the engaging exchanges of dialogue between the two protagonists. Their conversation reveals a lot in their character and personality.

This is particularly true in Elijah who, initially, seems so harmless, but it turns out there is an incipient madness lurking beneath his surface. 

There is a big shift in his character and he unexpectedly turns out to be a ruthlessly scheming, manipulative young man with his own wicked agenda.   

We won’t go much into what happened or share what secrets they’ve revealed in the course of their conversation and it would be a spoiler. 

Suffice it to say that all the talking weaves quite a compelling, even shocking, story told with flair and wit.   

A lot of the dialogue is in English and it helps that both Romnick and Elijah are fluent with it. 

They both understand the intricacies of their complex roles, the dynamics needed to make their characters work and their intimate tete-a-tete about artistic creation, grief and identity. 

Both Romnick and Elijah give solid performances and they run through an entire range of emotions in the course of their discussions. 

At one point, they even change their appearance and the way they talk to approximate the personality of a dead character who they both knew intimately. 

No doubt that this vividly contributed to the growing tension between them and they really collaborated exceptionally well. 

The film is an entry in the coming Summer Metro-Manila Filmfest that starts in theaters on April 8. Come the filmfest awards night on April 11, we won’t be surprised if both Romnick and Elijah are nominated as best actors. 

If there are no other strong male performances, we hope it’d be a tie for them.