Saturday, August 9, 2014

CINEMALAYA 2014: Review of S6PARADOS: A Decidedly Male Viewpoint

August 8, 2014

One day, six men were attending a wedding, listening to the priest deliver a sermon about the sanctity of matrimony. Unfortunately, these six men were men who have been separated, on the process of separating and planning to separate from their wives

Santi (Victor Neri) is a chef. He is separated from his wife who is an annulment lawyer too busy with her work to care about him. He is the groom of this wedding, his second stab at married life. Pancho (Alfred Vargas) is Santi's cousin, a Balikbayan who opened a car detailing business. His strained relationship with his wife drives him to be an alcoholic. Marcel (Ricky Davao) is Santi's new father-in-law, a bank manager. After 26 years of marriage, he decides to confess to his wife that he is gay.

Armand (Jason Abalos) is a car salesman. His wife is a shabu addict who has drawn him into the habit, causing him trouble at work. Rico (Anjo Yllana) is a seaman between jobs.  His wife is a condescending businesswoman who drives him nuts and unfaithful.  Christian (Erik Santos) is a call center agent who moonlights as a wedding singer. His wife is his supervisor at work who would violently beat him up for every little infraction. 

Victor Neri credibly plays a chef. It turns out in reality, he took up the culinary trade during his sojourn from acting in the past seven years, so he looked comfortable in the kitchen.  He's solid in his performance though his face tends to look stern constantly, even when he was in a happy scene. Santi's wife Pia was played with confidence by smart pixie-haired Angel Jacob. His new girlfriend turned bride Gabbie is played by the beautiful Ritz Azul, who gave a very winning portrayal. The scene where Santi proposes to Gabbie was very well-executed.

Ricky Davao plays his natural best as the gay Marcel.  His confrontation scene with his wife played by Melissa Mendez was very well-written and well-acted by both veteran actors. Davao's scenes with Jason Abalos (as Armand, the apple of Marcel's eyes) were quite funny. The first time I saw Abalos in a film was also in a Cinemalaya film, "Endo" back in 2007, and he has gone a long way since. His scenes with Althea Vega, who played his drug addict wife Connie were shot in poor light, perhaps to emphasize the darkness of their existence.

Anjo Yllana, whom we know mostly as a comedian, was very natural as the philandering character Rico. Sharmaine Arnaiz likewise does well as his domineering wife. Unfortunately, Rico's character felt most unconnected to the rest of the story. Christian is incidentally the singer during Santi's wedding and the call-center guy who answered Rico's call. Erik Santos' portrayal of the battered husband is quite good for a first timer. Iwa Moto's performance as his raving virago of a wife felt too outlandish though.

Alfred Vargas also does well as the alcoholic Pancho, though a little cliche-ish in his approach.  His mysterious wife Iris is played coyly by Diana Zubiri. There would be a flashback scene which would try to explain the root of their problem. But the director seemed to have forgotten to close this particular story.

The technical aspects of this film are very clean.  The cinematography looks very good in general. The film editing was neat. I liked the director's technique of having each man show up in the stories of the other men as incidental characters. This made the story telling more interesting to watch and showed how their lives intersected.

With a title like "S6parados," the plot is no surprise.  This film discusses the lives of six men and the wives with whom they have or will separate.  The unique aspect of this melodrama is that it is told completely from a male point of view, of men confiding to other men. While many would criticize it for being one-sided, I actually thought it was a refreshing change from all the usual female-driven drama stories. Director GB Sampedro has filled a long absent void for male-oriented relationship stories. 6/10.

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