A modern fairy tale
Mario E. Bautista (The Philippine Star) - September 22, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Film review: Muli

As a director, Adolf Alix Jr. made a fairly impressive debut in Donsol, but his next films like Batanes, Imoral and Daybreak were more like hack work. He now redeems himself in Muli, a Palanca award-winning script by Jerry Gracio who also wrote the acclaimed Emir. Muli is a gay love story that begins in the late ’60s in Baguio when Jun (Sid Lucero) leaves the seminary and joins a communist group headed by Celest (Arnold Reyes), who became his lover even if homosexual relations were then forbidden in the rebel movement.

Jun will have other lovers but his greatest love is Errol (Cogie Domingo), a frequent guest in the inn he inherits from his late mom. Their love story develops leisurely. Errol returns to the inn several times without anything happening to them. He finishes law, works at the court of appeals, marries his girlfriend (Maxine Eigenmann) and then one drunken night, something happens to him and Jun. Errol is “now you see it, now you don’t” in Jun’s life. There were long stretches that they don’t get to see each other at all, but Jun’s feelings for Errol remains very intense, even if he has found another lover in the sweet and kind Roland (Rocky Salumbides), a hunky mining engineer who’s so proud of him. But he’s willing to leave Roland if ever Errol would want to live with him.

The story is told amidst the political changes that happen in our country as shown in news footages showing the imposition of martial law, the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, the People Power revolution, the fall of Erap Estrada, and even the Miss Universe pageant held in our country. The film wavers only towards the end when the characters grow older and the filmmakers can’t seem to figure out what kind of a fitting ending they’d give to their love story.

Muli can certainly stand more trimming to make it tighter and the pacing, quicker. But as it is, there’s no doubt the narrative is told in a convincing and absorbing manner. What holds the film together is the brilliant performance of Sid as Jun. The story is told from his point of view and he’s in about 95 percent of the scenes. He gives a no-holds barred, all stops are pulled kind of uninhibited portrayal specially in the sex scenes where you can see he has no reluctance at all to do all the torrid same sex lovemaking he had to do with various actors. What makes Sid exceptional is his very controlled kind of emoting even in the most intense scenes.

Rocky gives outstanding support as the loving engineer along with Kenneth Ocampo as Bobet, the gay housemaid with plenty of effortless comic moments even in simple scenes where all he does is ask: “Hindi mo ba siya ipagluluto ng kaldereta?” What detracts from the film is the unimpressive portrayal of Cogie as Errol, often looking like a zombie who doesn’t seem to fully understand the gravity of his role. Come to think of it, this is not a good comeback vehicle for him as he looks so ill at ease with his plywood portrayal of a bisexual lawyer.

The period production design is often good and they have a great Baguio location, beautifully photographed especially when the fog is coming in to envelop the mountainous surroundings. It’s the aging makeup that leaves a lot to be desired. After 40 years, Sid, Cogie and all their friends still look the same. The only thing different is their gray hair, which is not persuasive as it’s so easy to have your hair dyed in this day and age. It’s their faces that should have changed. Their skin remains as tight as ever and didn’t sag at all. They should have also put on weight, which can be done by making them wear bulkier clothing. There’s no such effort so in the scenes where Cogie is with his grown up son, Joross Gamboa, he still appears younger looking on screen than Joross and that makes our suspension of disbelief quite difficult.

ADOLF ALIX JR. ARNOLD REYES COGIE DOMINGO ERAP ESTRADA ERROL IMORAL AND DAYBREAK JERRY GRACIO JOROSS GAMBOA MULI SID
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