Sunday, December 30, 2018

MMFF 2018: Review of AURORA: Spirits from a Shipwreck

December 30. 2018

The passenger ship Aurora crashed into some rocks and got wrecked just off the shore of an island, causing countless deaths. Leana's Sea Side Inn, located on the nearest beach, was used as headquarters for rescue operations. When the Coast Guard announced that they are concluding their search for missing passengers, relatives requested Leana to search for dead bodies that wash to shore, and they would pay her a hefty amount for each one she found. Out of financial desperation, Leana accepted the grisly task. 

2018 is a banner year for Anne Curtis as she had three major film projects which were able to showcase the diverse range of her acting talents, so much more than she had in her whole career it seems. Her roll began in May with the quirky romance in "Sid & Aya (Not a Love Story)" and continued in August with the high-octane action of "Buybust." She concludes her year by dabbling in the horror genre in "Aurora."

As Leana, Curtis played a woman caught up in a maelstrom of conflicting personal issues. She struggled to keep their humble business afloat while taking care of the well-being of her younger sister Rita, and the unfortunate situation with the shipwreck made these matters even worse. She was guilt-ridden about the death of her father, as she was conscience-stricken about making money off selling the cargo salvaged from the ship. Curtis had to carry the weight of Leana's baggage and make us in the audience care for this flawed heroine, even if there were some problems about how the character was written by screenwriter Gin de Mesa.

Phoebe Villamor played Rita, a physically and emotionally exhausting role especially for a child actress. Veteran actors Allan Paule and Arnold Reyes do well in their roles as Eddie, (Leana's enterprising boatman) and Phillip (traumatized Aurora survivor). Marco Gumabao was limited by a poorly-written role as Ricky, Leana's (former?) boyfriend. Ricardo Cepeda could have been better in his scenes as the Coast Guard officer in-charge. 7'3" tall actor Raul Dillo played a key role as the giant Benjamin David who was also on the Aurora.

Filmed in the rocky Pacific coast of Batanes, director Yam Laranas successfully created a brooding creepy atmosphere in and around the desolate Sea Side Inn which was as much a character in the film as Leana and Rita. With his bluish-tinged cinematography and Oscar Fogelström's weighty musical score, Laranas was able to sustain the suspense throughout the film, despite some iffy visual effects and production details. 

In the final act, there were confusing developments that sort of threw off some of the fluidity in the storytelling. Anyhow, it is a ghost story, so it does not really need to be completely logical, as long as it can disturb your peace. And for me, it did. 7/10.

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