Monday, December 22, 2014

Mulat (Awaken)

An engaged couple bicker about the details of their upcoming wedding while driving late to an appointment. Their heated discussion takes a turn for the worse when he loses control of the wheel and their car collides with a motorcycle. The resulting impact sends the driver flying off his bike, while the fiancee is left all bloodied and unconscious as Vincent (Ryan Eigenman) desperately tries to revive her. Soon after, Sam (Loren Burgos) is no longer the clingy ex-fiancee she once was, but her new mantra about relationships is getting in the way of her rebound romance with Jake (Jake Cuenca). She is now detached and aloof, while her new beau appears to be the serious one, just like she was before her accident. Things get more complicated as she starts hearing voices in her head, as well as having recurring nightmares with visions of herself all black and blue and covered in blood.

The thing about this film is that the plot unfolds in a non-linear manner, which is a good way to sustain the viewer's attention by holding on to their curiosity. The scenes shuttle back and forth between past and present, each one almost always showing a different side of Sam. She is clingy and too invested in one scene with Vincent, only to be non-committal and distant with Jake in another. Such juxtaposition is used as a persistent plot device prompting you to wonder if this girl has succumbed to schizophrenia or if there is something supernatural going on. Besides, what happens after her accident is not really established, but rather just implied through dialogue among the characters. This ambiguity is actually one of several factors stopping you from dismissing this as another breakup movie replete with quotable quotes regarding the complexities of modern human relationships.

Burgos probably needs more workshops. Her attempt to show two distinct sides of the same character is tolerable, although there are moments when you would notice how something appears to be a bit off, like she got the wrong cue for that particular scene or something. You have to admit it, though; the girl is telegenic, and the abundance of close-ups does her a huge favor every time.

It is refreshing to watch Cuenca give a more restrained performance this time around, given how he has the tendency to be overacting most of the time. Here he has this relaxed look on his face matched with a hoarse voice. Whether such nuances are intentional or not, no one really knows, but at least his performance comes off as sincere and he is not weighed down by his usual theatrics screaming, "Look at me, I'm acting!"

Eigenman offers good support but does not really do anything unique to make the character his own; not that he needed to, though, because the role itself seems to be at fault for being too stereotypical. Any other actor could have been given the role and also end up not being able to do much with it. What is important here is that Vincent serves his purpose by driving the story forward and triggering the character development necessary for Sam.

The ending reveals everything you need to know in order to figure everything out. It is rather abrupt, but has just the right kick to make you realize that you have seen a film worth the admission price. And in a film festival full of sequels and the usual leave-your-brain-at-the-door fodder, isn't that a good thing?

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