Sunday, August 4, 2019

Belle Douleur


A child psychologist by profession, Elizabeth (Mylene Dizon) mourns the death of her mother, while her aunt bemoans her niece ending up an old maid. With the help of friends she declutters the house while they post an ad online for the sale of her antiques. The advertisement catches the attention of Josh (Kit Thompson), a young antique reseller who also happens to be an orphan. With the support and encouragement of her friends, she pursues the young man despite their obvious age gap. Enjoying the honeymoon stage of the relationship, they finally reach the part where their differences serve as a hindrance for the relationship to blossom even more. Will they end up reconciling their differences for the sake of their relationship or will one have to sacrifice for both of them to benefit?

One thing that this narrative gets right, not that we need a reminder in a post #metoo world, is the prevailing difference when it comes to gender roles and how Philippine society perceives such a concept. If you are a guy in your 40’s and still single, then it is actually seen as an advantage and somehow a good thing. After all, you are living the dream bachelor life. However, it is considered some sort of a failure if you are a woman in the same situation. It’s hard for you to bear children now. You are an old maid. You will die alone.

This sub-genre has been emerging recently nonetheless. Remember when Angel Aquino’s Glorious came out on an online streaming platform? Filipinos tend to frown upon such storylines, again because of traditional consensus and double standards based on gender, which is perhaps all the more reason to popularize it. It’s 2019, there really is no room for antiquated beliefs. That we are seeing more narratives of the same vein can also be an indication that there are more and more women given the opportunity to make films nowadays, and that is a good thing. Let them tell stories from their own perspective.

Dizon has always been a reliable character actress. She has this brand of versatility where she can make you hate her so much as a borderline caricature antagonist in the mainstream, only to do a 180 in the indie scene by giving life to roles of independent women who decide to take control of their lives. She is on the same level as Alessandra de Rossi, Angel Aquino, and Iza Calzado in this regard and it is always a pleasure watching them give life to challenging characters onscreen.

As for Thompson, he seems to be part of this new wave of millennials who serve as flavors of the month. It used to be Tony Labrusca prior to his now infamous airport incident. Perhaps the question here is whether these young men are in for the long haul or are they just waiting for a personal scandal to unfold that will end their 15 seconds of fame. In any case, they are still young and that is an asset, pun intended, in the industry they operate in. But they won’t be young forever, so shuttling back and forth between indie and mainstream is perhaps the best way to expand their acting repertoire.

So far, this is one of the Cinemalaya entries this year that has good potential to be appreciated in the mainstream given the storyline and the risqué scenes. It has just the right amount of emotional punch to complement the borderline soft porn content, all while delivering a social commentary on gender issues that are still prevalent in today’s society. Add some subtle comedy and a little bit of drama and you get what could be a sleeper box office hit.

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