Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Nuuk

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Elaiza Svendsen (Alice Dixson) can’t deal with the death of her husband. Based in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, she finds it hard to cope with her daily life without developing a dependence on alcohol and prescription drugs. When her medication runs out and her doctor is out of town, her desperation leads her to chase a random guy with a Prozac bottle heading out of the pharmacy. That guy turns out to be Mark Alvarez (Aga Muhlach), a fellow Filipino residing in Greenland who quickly becomes her friend. He even becomes instrumental in the renewed communication between her and estranged son Karl (Ujarneq Fleischer). What begins as companionship becomes the foundation of something deeper, further fueled by a quick getaway to Dakak for a change of environment. However, her sanity is put into question when she wakes up without Mark by her side and without a trace of him ever existing in her life.

The trailer is intriguing alright, promising a psychological thriller pointing at an unreliable narrator who, for all we know, might be hallucinating about the whole film. Suffering from mental illness and alcohol/prescription drug dependence, Elaiza can’t really be trusted, as is quickly established by the narrative early on, which brings you to speculate as to what the catch really is for almost the entire duration of the movie’s runtime. Is Mark a figment of her imagination? But Karl can see him too! Is Karl also a figment of her imagination? But his friends know her as his mom!

Is she schizophrenic? Is she suffering from multiple personality disorder? There are a lot of theories until we reach the last 20 minutes or so where you are slapped in the face with a big twist. Perhaps this is where we must congratulate the writer and the director for cleverly scattering all the red herrings all throughout the plot to mislead you. It might be the case that I am just losing my investigative skills in cracking plot twists early on but I did have a legit OHHH I GET IT moment. For a while there, I was really amused.

And then I came to the realization that perhaps my amusement is misplaced? Any film tackling mental illness, no matter what the treatment, is a welcome advocacy to provoke a discourse on the topic and make it less taboo. I mean, come on, people suffering from mental illnesses are usually pushed to the brink not just by the illness itself but also by the stigma. Any material shedding light and awareness regarding the issue should be welcomed with open arms. For Nuuk, though, it seems like that angle is just used as a gimmick for the twist’s dramatic reveal. A means to an end. A plot device, to be totally blunt.

Even then, if you are just looking for a good mystery thriller, then this movie is for you. It doesn’t hurt that it is set in one of the most inaccessible countries on the planet, which for many of us is considered as a once in a lifetime travel destination. Psychological aspect aside, what drew me to this film was the chance to tour Nuuk without going bankrupt no thanks to the expensive costs of getting there. In this regard, the movie serves as a good introduction to Greenland as well as its language, traditions, and way of life.

On the contrary, the setting could have been anywhere on the planet because to be quite frank about it, the only link they could find is that of the country’s high suicide rate, loosely correlating it with the storyline. It could have happened anywhere else, to be honest. Thanks for the tour, though. It was fun.

As for the acting, Dixson has improved a lot since her Okay Ka Fairy Ko days. Even then, her acting during the first 15 minutes or so is rather off, but eventually syncs with the character’s mood swings as the film progresses. It is Muhlach who steals the show. There is a scene or two where you see him look at Dixson in a sinister manner, albeit so subtly nuanced that you begin to question yourself if that’s a clue or just a strange acting quirk. The mystery he brings to his character is definitely one of this movie’s strongest points.

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