Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Review of AN INCONVENIENT LOVE: Extending the Expiration

November 29, 2022



Ayef (Belle Mariano) was a plucky girl who worked at the 24-Ever convenience store with her friends Jobert (Adrian Lindayag) and Kookie (Iana Bernardez). She was an aspiring animation artist who was hoping she could get accepted into an internship with a Singaporean firm. She lived with her stressed-out hotel manager mother Terry (Matet de Leon) and her meek henpecked father Filemon (Epy Quizon). 

Manny (Donnie Pangilinan) was a rich boy who just opened his own plant shop he called "Halamanny" with his minions Ben 1 (Chino Liu) and Ben 2 (Brian Sy). His tyrannical tycoon father Wilfredo Siena (Tirso Cruz III) had separated from Manny's mother Meryl (Teresa Loyzaga), and brought his former cook, now mistress Agnes (Precious Lara Quigaman) and their autistic son Dobs (JC Alcantara) to live in his mansion. 

This was yet another reiteration of the very old rich boy-poor girl romance trope. Writers Daisy Cayanan and Enrico Santos gave it a twist by having Ayef and Manny give their relationship an "expiration date" -- the day Ayef would be flying off to Singapore. As things usually went in romance films like this, of course Ayef and Manny eventually fall in love with each other, throwing an expected wrench into their convenient arrangement.

This movie worked mainly because of the irresistible chemistry between lead stars Belle Mariano and Donnie Pangilinan, and director Petersen Vargas wisely played it up. Both stars did very well in their delightful comic scenes like that funny sequence of Manny buying items that totaled P143 with Ayef at the cash register; as well as their tearful dramatic moments, like that bitter confrontation after a disastrous birthday dinner. 

Veteran character actresses Matet de Leon and Teresa Loyzaga stood out with their riveting but painfully caustic portrayals of imperfect motherhood.  Epy Quizon proved again that he can do gentle roles as well as those weird quirky roles he is more known for. Tirso Cruz III was just being a one-dimensional villain the whole time. JC Alcantara was sadly underused in his ultimately challenging, yet ultimately inconsequential supporting role. 6/10


Review of STRANGE WORLD: Willfully Woke

November 28, 2022



When Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) was still a young man, he went with his famous explorer father Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) on an expedition to cross one of mountains surrounding their land of Avalonia. Midway, Jaeger wanted to study a new energy-generating plant he called Pando. However, his father insisted to go further into the wilderness and forged on ahead in anger. He never made it back home again since then. 

Twenty five years later, Searcher is now a farmer of Pando, which has since been used as the energy source of Avalonia. He is married to pilot Meredith (Gabrielle Union) and had a gay teenage son named Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White), who would rather go on adventures than to stay in the farm. One day, the president of Avalonia Callisto Mai (Lucy Liu) recruited Searcher to join her on a mission to save Pando's root system from attack.

I have to admit that the trailer they released earlier this year did not make me want the movie. No one among the human characters popped out that would encourage audiences to follow his story. None of the alien-looking gelatinous creatures looked particularly interesting to know more about, nor were they cute enough in the typical sense for little kids to clamor for. It was a trailer that did not exactly catch anyone's attention. 

As you watch the prologue, you already get a sense that a father-son disagreement will underpin the whole story, a plot device which had been tackled so many times before. The introduction of Avalonia and Pando took so long, really dragging down the pace of the film at the very start, something the film could not recover from anymore even as the "adventure" proper was already underway. Most of its supposed "comedy" parts were not funny at all.

As wokeness is the trend in films these days, there was much representation going on here in the cast of characters. Searcher and Meredith were a mixed-race couple, and they had a gay son. Ethan Cade is the first openly gay lead character in a Disney film. Not because he was gay, but as written, Ethan was not exactly a likable character. With the sassy way he talked back to his father, it was not easy to sympathize with what he was going through.

I did like how they came up a major unexpected 11th hour twist in the story about the true nature of Pando and the creatures attacking it. Admittedly, it was rather a big stretch about how the humans finally figure out what had been happening all along just by seeing one single giant eye. For Ethan in particular to arrive at the correct deduction came out of nowhere. Anyhow, it was good, but by then, it was already too late to save the film. 5/10. 


Sunday, November 27, 2022

QCinema: Review of NOCEBO: Expatriate Exigencies 1

 November 26, 2022



Christine (Eva Green) was a famous designer of children's clothing. During one fashion show, a mysterious dog covered with ticks appeared before Christine. When the dog shook, one of its ticks landed on her nape. Since then, Christine began suffering from episodes of nervousness and shaking that negatively affected her ability to work, and her relationship with her husband Felix (Mark Strong) and daughter Roberta (Billie Gadsdon). 

One day, a Filipino woman named Diana (Chai Fonacier) appeared at Christine's door offering her housekeeping services. Despite having no memory at all of hiring anyone, Christine welcomed Diana in to work for them, something Felix and Roberta did not like. Aside from cooking good food, Diana also knew how folk medicinal techniques which actually improved the unusual symptoms Christine had been experiencing all this time.

A nocebo is the opposite of a placebo. A nocebo is supposed to be a neutral substance that gives a worsening effect to how a patient feels because he thought very negatively of it. I am not entirely sure there was a nocebo at work in this story because Christine actually trusted Diana's rituals and she apparently recovered because of them, and this was despite the negative opinions of her husband and daughter. 

The production went over-the-top with the voodoo, but totally sold it because of Chai Fonacier's eerie portrayal of Diana's insidious manipulation with that unnerving Visayan accent. As she did in her previous roles, Eva Green can really push complex eccentric characters like Christine to their breaking point. The reliable Mark Strong lends his support as the skeptical husband Felix, who kept getting in the way of Diana's plans.

The film took us back to the reason of how and why Diana specifically went to work at Christine's house, and this exposed some unfortunate socio-economic realities. One wonders though if this film did any favors at all to the reputation of Filipino housekeepers and nannies working all over the world right now by showing what otherworldly things Diana was capable of doing. However, as a psychological horror film, this actually worked very well. 7/10.

QCinema 2022: Review of TO THE NORTH: Expatriate Exigencies 2

 November 26, 2022


Dumitru (Nikolai Becker) was a 24-year old young man from Romania. At the port of Algeciras in the southern part of Spain, he was able to sneak onto a Taiwanese cargo vessel under Capt. Tsai (Alexandre Nguyen) destined for Canada. He was discovered by a group of Filipino crew members, namely the bosun Joel (Soliman Cruz) and his friends Allan (Bartholome "Bart" Guingona) and Bernardo (Emmanuel "Noel" Sto. Domingo). 

Being a very religious man, Joel took pity on the young man, hid him in one of the empty rooms near the engine, and would bring him food and drink that he could sneak out. However, as Dumitru's impatience and panic inside his pitch-dark solitary confinement grew in intensity, paranoia was also boiling up on board as the Filipino crewmen began suspect that their Taiwanese ship officers are already onto their big secret. 

Romanian writer-director Mihai Mincan used a variety of languages -- English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Tagalog and Romanian -- to deliver this story dealing with international issues that was based on real-life events. Joel and Dumitru understood and spoke English and Spanish, but occasionally they delivered lines in their native language and this can get confusing whether the other party understood what was said or not.

The manner Mincan told his story was very intense, suffused with a constant feeling of claustrophobia whether in the darkness below deck or in the maze of containers on deck. This was achieved with all the extreme closeups by cinematographer George Chiper-Lillemark, enhanced by the film editing by Dragos Apetri. The heavy atmosphere of uncertain danger was further achieved with the suspenseful musical score of Marius Leftarache. 

The tension in those scenes of Capt. Tsai with Joel and Allan was so thick, it was suffocating -- whether it was in the young captain's sterile office, or in that rowdy karaoke night party.  Nikolai Becker's desperate Dumitru can elicit conflicting emotions from anger to pity. Soliman Cruz absolutely gave it his everything in that outstanding final sequence, with his extreme inner turmoil reflected on his weathered face, wet with tears, snot and drool.  8/10. 


Friday, November 25, 2022

Vivamax: Review of US X HER: Tiresome Threesome

November 25, 2022



Dave (Kiko Estrada) was a basketball star who had been sidelined from action because of repeated injuries. He met Mari (AJ Raval) as a new photographer at one of his photoshoots and they soon got married. However, four years later and they were still childless. When the pandemic hit, Dave's sausage business began to tank. 

Lila (Angeli Khang) was one of Dave's biggest fans back in his basketball days. One day, she called Dave to order sausages, and then invited him to cook them for her. It was not only Dave's spicy Hungarian sausage that Lila tasted that night. However, it turned out that their sneaky tryst was just a one-off thing for Dave, and that did not make Lila happy at all.

AJ Raval seemed to have matured considerably in her acting skills with her role here as Mari. She was confident here and was in control of what she wanted in her life. Unfortunately for Angeli Khang, she was saddled with a weaker, pathetic and more illogical role, that of a victim of sex abuse who also used sex to get back at her abuser. 

Kiko Estrada's Dave was such a loser it was difficult to understand why these two beautiful women are so obsessed with him. He was a klutz in sports. He was bad in business.He was an adulterous husband. And to top things all off, he was even a remorseless drug addict. Likely his skills in bed were also not enough, so the two girls went for each other. 

Writer-director Jules Katanyag did try to spice things up by incorporating some scenes staged like a play. This could have been an interesting touch, if only if the three actors were not so self-conscious during these theatrical interludes. Contrary to the sophistication which he probably hoped to achieve, these scenes turned out awkward and unintentionally comical.

This was supposed to be THE ideal combo in the Vivamax universe -- their supreme sirens AJ Raval and Angeli Khang in one movie. Unfortunately, this casting coup was totally wasted in this trite and tiresome triangle story. Vivamax must have had a whole pool of scripts at hand and they had to choose this insipid one to showcase their two top draws. What a waste. 1/10.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

QCinema 2022: Mini-Reviews of SIX BEST INTERNATIONAL FILMS OSCAR SUBMISSIONS

November 24, 2022

RETURN TO SEOUL

Director: Davy Chou 

Submission of CAMBODIA (Languages: French, Korean, English)

Freddie Benoit was a Korean who was adopted by a French family when she was still a baby. Now a young woman of 25, Freddie decided to fly to Seoul, Korea when her trip to Japan did not push through. While in Seoul, Freddie tried to look for her birth parents from the adoption agency who facilitated it. She was met with varied reactions -- one parent was over-apologetic, while the other one did not seem to care to see her.

As played by Park Ji-min, Freddie was not exactly a likable person. Her headstrong, rude attitude is not easy to watch or sympathize with. She had some relationships along the way, strangest being with a middle-aged French arms dealer. The belated reunion scene of Freddie and her birth mother was very unsatisfactory. The whole final scene of older Freddie at a remote hotel was a puzzling conclusion. 4/10


SAINT OMER

Director: Alice Diop

Submission of FRANCE (Language: French)

In line with the new book she was writing adapting the classic story of Medea, novelist Rama (Kayije Kagame) went on a trip to Saint Omer witness the trial of Laurence Coly (Kayije Kagame), a young woman who was accused of killing her 15-month old baby girl Elise.

Laurence's story was only told within the confines of the courtroom, via the testimonies of the suspect and witnesses, the questions of the judge (Valérie Dréville) and the emotionally-charged summation of her defense lawyer (Aurélia Petit).

This film is a reflective study about motherhood. Very very slow burn. The flashbacks were about Rama and her strained relationship with her own mother. Meanwhile, it would seem that Laurence also had a strained relationship with her mother. 7/10


PLAN 75

Director: Chie Hayakawa

Submission of JAPAN (Languages: Japanese, Tagalog)

There were three main characters around which the story revolved. Michi (Chieko Baisho) was a 78-year old lady who lived alone and had just been retired from her job. Himoru Okabe (Hayato Isomura) was a young man actively recruiting for Plan 75 until he saw his own uncle (Taka Takao) applying. Maria (Stefanie Arianne) was a young Filipina mother working among elders in Japan to raise money for her daughter's heart surgery.

Plan 75 is about a fictional new law passed in Japan allowing senior citizens aged 75 and above to plan their own euthanized death. With a morbid topic like this, it was no surprise that the pace of the film was glacially slow, the lighting dim and the mood morosely sad. However, there will be an emotional connection to the lonely characters involved, and it will make you reflect on your own life and mortality. 6/10


UTAMA

Director: Alejandro Loayza Grisi

Submission of BOLIVIA (Languages: Quechua, Spanish)

Elderly llama farmer Virginio (Jose Calcina) and his wife Sisa (Luisa Quispe) persist with their daily routines despite the shortage of water following a year-long drought in their remote village in the Andes. One day, their grandson, city boy Clever (Santos Choque) visited to convince them to go back with him to live in the city. However, Virgilio was being a curmudgeon about any of Clever's suggestions.

There was not really much of a story, but it was a rare chance to see a slice of what life was in that part of the world, their daily routines, religion, culture and family. The actors who played the elderly couple were possibly non-professional actors, but their bond as husband and wife is convincing and admirable, and connected emotionally with the audience. The llamas were adorable. The scene with the condor was haunting. 7/10


CORSAGE

Director: Marie Kreutzer

Submission by AUSTRIA (Languages: German, French, English, Hungarian)

With all her ceremonial duties, Empress Elisabeth (Vicky Krieps) was unhappy as the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (Florian Teichtmeister). Her constraints were represented by the tightness of the corsets she needs to wear, and she rebelled against them. She only confided with her trusted friend Countess Marie Festetics (Katharina Lorenz), and enjoyed activities with her cousin King Ludwig II of Bavaria (Manuel Rubey).

Director Marie Kreutzer used a lot of innovative techniques to set this apart from the usual period biopic. There was technical surprises in the cinematography and musical score. There were inserted black-and-white scenes from the newly-invented motion picture camera by Louie Le Prince (Finnegan Oldfield). There were a couple of scenes featuring modern pop songs ("Help Me Make It Through the Night," "As Tears Go By"). 7/10


EO

Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Submission by POLAND (Languages: Polish, Italian, English, French)

Eo is a gray donkey who was born in a circus and was in an act with his master Kassandra (Sandra Drzymalska). One day, the circus was closed down because of bankruptcy and public protests of animal cruelty. From there, Eo was moved from place to place -- from a horse stable, to a donkey farm for special children, to the woods, to a soccer game, to an animal hospital, on a delivery truck, and in the estate of a mansion in Italy.

Since the main protagonist is a donkey, Eo is silent. There won't be any Disney-like voice-overs here. It would depend on the director's creativity with his camera angles and musical score to evoke the proper emotion for each story. The violence can be very shocking and jarring. The ending set in Italy was disappointing despite the presence of Isabelle Huppert, because it was strange and had nothing to do with Eo at all. 5/10. 

QCinema 2022: Review of KAPAG WALA NANG MGA ALON: Corroded by Corruption

November 23, 2022


Lieutenant Hermes Papauran (John Lloyd Cruz) was recognized as the best police investigator in the country. He also shared his knowledge and skills as a professor in the police academy. However, he was no saint. He supposedly beat up his wife, and anyone else who dared to go against him. After he saw the Pieta EJK photo in the newspaper, it triggered an itchy psoriasis to develop on his face, which later spread all over his body.

A convict named Supremo "Primo" Macabantay (Ronnie Lazaro) was just released after a 10 year incarceration. He had apparently found God in prison, so he went around baptizing random people in his God's name. However despite this new-found faith, he was also out for revenge for the policeman who investigated his case and found the evidence which sent him to prison -- Lt. Hermes Papauran.

At 187 minutes, this was a relatively short Lav Diaz film. The main plot was actually quite simple and straightforward when compared to his other more complex opuses. There were basically only two main characters here, Hermes and Primo, who have a clear history of conflict in the past and were headed for a final showdown. But of course, Diaz would give them their own idiosyncratic individual stories.

Hermes' photojournalist friend Raffy Lerma (DMs Boongaling) gave us an idea of who Hermes' (and Lav Diaz's) politics. They believed how fascists rule by instilling fear among the people, which was the way of cowards -- a direct criticism of the previous regime and its reign of terror. Hermes' scenes with his elder sister Nerissa (Sharmaine Centenera-Buencamino) gave us a view of Hermes as a person outside the police force. 

Like all previous Lav Diaz, there were some scenes which boggle the viewer. There was a scene of a shirtless Ronnie Lazaro daddy-dancing by himself for a full five minutes, with some lewd interludes in between. Much later, we would also see a shirtless John Lloyd Cruz (with some pretty convincing psoriasis body make-up) do his own five minute solo crazy dancing on the street. What were these scenes for and why did they take so much time? 

There was also a very strange scene of Primo's encounter with a prostitute named Ricarda Lim (Ronaliza Jinatalan) whom he brought to his hotel to convert her. His attempt to baptize her in a basin of water went awry in a most unconvincing way which was comical, unsure if this was deliberate or inadvertent. The subsequent scenes followed Primo's attempt to improbably cover up the snafu, but this whole episode was never brought up again. 

A most striking scene was the final confrontation scene of Hermes and Primo at the pier, expertly composed, lit and shot by cinematographer Larry Manda. Only the sea wall and the two characters were visible in stark contrast against a pitch black background. However, it suddenly shifted to a scene on the same pier with the same two characters (seemingly blocked differently) shot in the natural light of dawn -- a very awkward transition. 

Aside from Diaz's pointed statement against EJK and the president behind it, the intrinsic message of this whole film for me was the sad state of corruption in the police force. Even the outstanding policemen, like Hermes (and yes, even Primo), could eventually go bad given the warped system they worked in. As symbolized by Hermes' friend's reaction to his psoriasis, people regard all policemen with fear even when they approach to help them. 5/10.


Monday, November 21, 2022

Netflix: Review of SLUMBERLAND: Dream Decisions

November 21, 2022



11-year old girl Nemo (Marlow Barkley) grew up only with her father Peter (Kyle Chandler) in the lighthouse which he kept. Peter homeschooled Nemo, taught her about lighthouse operations, and told her fantastic stories before she went to bed. However, one stormy night Peter went out to answer a distress call and never came back home. His father's estranged brother, doorknob salesman Philip (Chris O'Dowd) picked Nemo up and brought her to live with him in the city. Being single and a loner, Philip had a difficult time connecting with Nemo. 

One night, Nemo had a bizarre dream where her plush toy Pig was up and about, snorting and walking, and her bed grew legs and carried her off back to the lighthouse where she grew up. In her father's room, she met Flip (Jason Momoa), a huge man with long hair, curved horns, sharp teeth, wearing a pink jacket with golden epaulettes. Flip promised Nemo that she can be reunited with her father if she can help him find a missing map that would lead them to the Sea of Nightmares, where there are the pearls that can make any wish come true.

This fantasy-adventure film produced by Netflix was based on a vintage comic strip by Winsor McCay called "Little Nemo in Slumberland" which ran in the New York Herald from 1905 to 1911. Each story ran daily for a week with Nemo dreaming himself in various adventures until he woke up in the last panel. There was an anti-hero character named Flip in the strip too, a green-faced clown whose mission was to disrupt Nemo's sleep. In its adaptation, Netflix gender-switched the main protagonist and turned Flip into a bombastic satyr-like creature. 

The special visual effects department of this film really went very far out of the box to create the most spectacular dreamscapes. A standout scene was the car and truck chase scene in the city streets lined with skyscrapers made of glass that could easily shatter into smithereens. Another memorable scene was that of Nemo, Flip and the Canadian dreamer riding on giant Canada geese. Every scene with Pig was a cute visual delight. However, there were still scenes which were obviously used greenscreen and some CGI not smoothly rendered.

Despite the outrageously over-the-top performance of Jason Momoa as Flip (he seemed to be improvising more than he should), this film still had a beating heart that underpinned all the loud noise and garish colors. The way director Francis Lawrence revealed the connection of Nemo's dream world and her real world was executed with impeccable subtlety. The tearjerking scene of Uncle Philip telling Nemo about his relationship with his brother Peter as children would touch the heart of even the most jaded viewer. 7/10. 


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Netflix: Review of THE WONDER: Sainted or Starved?

November 20, 2022



In 1862, British nurse Elizabeth Wright (Florence Pugh) was hired for an unusual job in a remote Irish village. She was told that she had to watch an 11-year old girl named Anna O'Donnell (Kila Lord Cassidy), who was reported to have not been eating anything for the past four months. She was to report her professional objective findings to a council of elders which included a doctor (Toby Jones) and the parish priest (Ciaran Hinds).

Elizabeth was initially very skeptical about the whole assignment and was suspicious of the family, especially Anna's very religious and superstitious mother Rosaleen (Elaine Cassidy). Anna claimed that her health was being sustained by something she called "manna from heaven" and did not need any other form of human food. As Elizabeth got closer and earned Anna's confidence, she eventually drew her conclusions. 

The way Florence Pugh is getting cast in all of these challenging roles she's in lately, she is really the present day equivalent of what Kate Winslet was two decades ago. Pugh's Mrs. Wright was aloof and no-nonsense. She carried a heavy emotional load herself, which would later lead to her letting down her guard. Pugh embodied Mrs. Wright's strength of character, ever steadfast to her professional code. 

Kila Lord Cassidy struck me as a young Saoirse Ronan when she was starting out. Her sensitive and consistent portrayal of "fasting girl" Anna was remarkable for an actress her age, especially in those scenes when Anna was in physical difficulty. She held her own in her scenes with Pugh, as they developed an effective chemistry between them. Maybe it helped that her mother, actress Elaine Cassidy, was also there playing Anna's mother.

That it was Chilean director Sebastian Lelio (Oscar winner for "A Fantastic Woman" in 2017) who directed this film is impressive, as he perfectly captured the stifling atmosphere of Catholic fanaticism in 19th century rural Ireland as described in Emma Donoghue's book and screenplay. The technical aspects were likewise faultless, from the cinematography, editing, costume design and that unnerving musical score by Matthew Herbert. 8/10.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Vivamax: Review of ALAPAAP (2022): Frivolities of Filmmakers

November 19, 2022



Erik (Josef Elizalde) dropped out of med school to study filmmaking, now working on his thesis. His girlfriend Tonette (Katrina Dovey) was a fellow film student, still reeling from the suicide of her father. Their friend Orius (Ali Asistio) is a spoiled son of a anti-drug policeman. His bi girlfriend Cathy (Andrea Garcia) was also hooking up with lesbian Joyce (Chesca Paredes). His visiting cousin Adolf (Luke Selby) was a willing accomplice on their trips. 

One day, they took a trip to a remote area in Mindoro to shoot Erik's thesis, which was a documentary about an indigenous tribe called the Banyan.  When they reached their destination, they were brought to the Banyan village by  Manang Adela (Isadora) who introduced them to their elder Nana Azon (Erlinda Villalobos). The young people were disappointed when the tribal people there did not match their initial research. 

This film, not a remake of the Tata Esteban 1984 horror film of the same title, had the name of Brillante Mendoza as creator but the director was someone else, as it was with "Kaliwaan" and "Pusoy". This time the lucky protege to get his big break is Freidric Macapagal Cortez, who had been Mendoza's cinematographer and camera operator for several previous projects since 2017, now making his debut as a full-fledged feature film director. 

The film was about problematic millennials who had major issues with their parents, who were either too controlling, too negligent or too permissive with them. This led them to hang out with their friends and engage in high risk activities like illegal drugs or promiscuous sex. But to be fair, this film also tackled disturbing aspects of young filmmakers and their attitudes towards their craft, whether authenticity is important in their work or not.  

At the very beginning, there was scene set in the class of a film professor (Carlitos Siguion Reyna) where students were critiquing "Kinatay" (2009), poking fun at Brillante Mendoza himself for the film for which he won Best Director at Cannes. To further push the point that the main story was about filmmakers, the students were named after real directors (Matti, Jadaone, Solito, Garcia-Molina, Jimenez and Alix). 

Vivamax films had always pushed the envelope on decency, but this one must be raciest one of all. This one had multiple protracted scenes of graphic love making orgies that already bordered precariously on pornography. Like Mendoza himself did in his other Cannes entry "Serbis" (2008), Cortez did not bother to hide aroused members anymore, probably the only reason British actor Selby was even cast. This is as explicit as it gets (or maybe not). 4/10. 


Review of MAHAL KITA, BEKSMAN: Substantiating Straightness

November 19, 2022



For everyone, Dali (Christian Bables) is gay. He wore his hair red, had a stylish fashion sense, followed a strict facial care routine. He designed gowns for the boutique of his mom Gemma (Katya Santos). He does hair and makeup in Out of the Baks, the salon of his gay father Jaime (Keempee de Leon). Along with BFFs Marga (J-mee Katanyag) and Romy (Lei Ramos), he dressed up their friend Analyn (Donna Cariaso) for local pageants. 

While backstage during a beauty contest, Dali bumped into Angel (Iana Bernardez), and spilled his drink on her evening gown. When he caught a glimpse of Angel's face, it was instant love at first sight. To make up for staining her dress, he transformed it from plain white to flamboyant colorful right there on the spot. The next day, Dali surprised his friends and family when he declared that he was in love, and was actually straight.  

For this month of November 2022, there were two films by director Perci Intalan released, and they could not any further apart in theme and treatment. While "Livescream" was dark, violent and perverse, this one "Mahal Kita Beksman" was bright, cheerful and well, gay. Intalan had the same technical team behind him in both films, Emerzon Texzon for music, Carmela Danao for production design and Moises Zee for cinematography -- versatile artists all.

Fatrick Tabada (best known for writing the riotous 2016 family road trip movie "Patay Na Si Hesus") came up with an insightful script that tries to untangle the frequently confusing threads of the LGBTQ spectrum. His character of Dali is an interesting study of this intricacy, and Christian Bables (already acclaimed for his gay roles in "Die Beautiful" and "Big Night") gives another delightfully winning yet distinctly sensitive portrayal here.

Keempee de Leon went all-out flashy in his portrayal of Dali's unapologetically-gay father, who lived with his wife Gemma and his partner Boyet. Iana Bernardez, who had played an elusive muse before in "Gusto Kita with All My Hypothalamus" (2018), was beautiful, but had iffy romantic chemistry with Bables, who even looked prettier than her in some scenes. J-mee Katanyag made the most of Marga's confession scene, one of the best scenes in the film.

The film had plenty of fun celebrating stereotypically gay activities with Dali's swishy friends, like fashion, cosmetology, volleyball, while also poking fun at stereotypically male activities with Angel's macho brothers, like cars, gym, basketball. However, to also provide balance, it also came up with some memorable, well-written scenes with thought-provoking insights about being straight and the essence of being a man. 8/10.