Friday, September 14, 2012

The chemistry of tears... and years


Manila,Philippines - Star Cinema’s The Mistress is a superb acting vehicle for both Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd Cruz, proving that even when tackling more mature roles, their chemistry, after a full decade, remains intact.

For a mainstream film, it plays out in a unique manner, thanks to the direction of Olive Lamasan and Vanessa Valdes’ screenplay. It doesn’t have the requisite “feel-good, happy ending,” and refrains from turning the characters into black-and-white heroes and villains. Instead, it incisively exposes its main protagonists as people trapped in a situation that spirals into one fraught with drama, retribution, misgiving and guarded hope.

John Lloyd is Eric/JD, alienated son of an ever-philandering wealthy industrialist (Ronaldo Valdez) and his long-suffering wife (Hilda Koronel). Alienated because as the second son, he grew up feeling his now dead older brother was the perennial favorite, and even has doubts about who his father truly is.

When he runs into Sari (Bea), he is smitten but she rejects him. Coincidence dictates that his work as an architect leads him to the haberdashery where Sari works as a master cutter, suit-maker. The subsequent discovery that Sari is his father’s mistress only creates confusion, wanting to first reject and hate her; but later finding that despite the relationship with his father, she is a wonderful person, and that he needs and wants her. The above are the simple bare bones of the nexus of relationships that lie between our four main characters.

Against that backdrop, it’s the texture of the screenplay and the sympathetic depth of the characters that make it such an absorbing film. The fractured, sad family histories of Sari and Eric, even if one is privileged, while the other is a struggling breadwinner, the way they talk of their lives in terms of “keeping a secret, and being that secret” — these all form part of the chemistry that’s played out onscreen and weaves us into the unfolding story.

The scene when John Lloyd and Bea first play their “What if/Kunwari” game is priceless in terms of their luminous facial expressions, as is Bea’s teary scene when she discovers who John Lloyd really is and feels she’s been toyed with. Ronaldo and Hilda also tackle their roles with gusto, proving that their acting mettle has not faded.

It’s the resolution and ending of the film that sets it apart from the mainstream fare we often get. Bittersweet and ambiguous, the ending is a fitting coda to all that has transpired. Yes, they are our hero and heroine, but the sober reality is that it is a doomed love affair, and the film does not flinch from treating it as such — leaving us to ponder on the cost of happiness and love.


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