Uncovering the untrue
The truth about UnTrue, directed and written by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo and starring Xian Lim and Cristine Reyes, is the fi lm is compelling and well-told.
Uncovering the untrue
Jerry Donato (The Philippine Star) - July 4, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — What makes watching a film narrative engaging is the task, given by the filmmaker to audiences, of uncovering the truth. It could be discovering a character’s real identity and intention or knowing the most reliable or unreliable point of view. The excitement builds up when dramatis personae are given a privileged position to tell and tweak events.

This is the kind of movie-watching experience Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s UnTrue, starring Xian Lim and Cristine Reyes, offers viewers on Netflix. Along with Lola Igna, Pamilya Ordinaryo, Pinoy Sunday and Sunod, the film is among the latest additions to the growing Filipino movie catalogue on the streaming platform.

A 35-year old Pinay, with traces of “domestic violence” written on her face, opens the story. She identifies herself as Mara Villanueva Castro to a police officer and gives the “I’m married to a lunatic” statement. Words such as “crazy, insane, lukaluka, maluwag ang turnilyo,” and “hibang” set the premise of her confessions about the love she has found in Georgia.

Mara meets Filipino Joachim, who follows her to the building, where she is staying as suggested by the camera. Working in a bar restaurant managed by his friend, she learns that he lives on the fifth floor and that he is into a wine business in their next encounter.

Joachim shows her around and points out the statue of Kartlis Deda, the Mother of Georgia, with a bowl of grapes on her left hand and a sword on her right. As he explains, she welcomes friends with grapes upon their arrival and faces foes with a sword.

Since there are only 30 Filipinos (which include them) in Georgia, Joachim and Mara become friends and go on a date. Their feelings are consummated in a bondage, tying rope act, which somehow shows the aggressiveness and vulnerability associated to both sexes.

Off to a road trip, he insists that they have run over a woman, but there’s no evidence in sight. Perplexed, Mara shrugs this off. After this, she accepts his marriage proposal. As a wife, Mara has become privy to this side of him. He has a recurring hallucination of a woman in uniform.

The perspective shifts when Joachim, talking to his doctor, says, “I’m married to a lunatic,” and some scenes and dialogues are repeated. To him, Mara appears to be the aggressive (the one who followed him to his place, initiated the bondage act and did the marriage proposal) and the lunatic (the one who insisted they had run over a woman and claimed the latter’s existence).

The truth, however, needs to be told.

Spoiler alert: Mara is taking revenge on Joachim, who had an affair with her younger sister Ana, a student in a school where he worked. He tied her up (the bondage act) and took a video of her, for personal reasons as implied. She accidentally dropped her cellphone and the video exposed her to the school community. Ana killed herself. In a letter, Ana expressed her sentiment about Mara’s absence in these trying times.

Thus, Mara has planned everything to give her sister’s demise justice by welcoming Joachim with a bowl of grapes in the beginning and fighting him with a sword in the end.

UnTrue reminds one about the beauty of paying attention to recurring symbols (like The Mother of Georgia’s life-size and miniature versions), repeated scenes (with slight changes) and dialogues in understanding the untrue, the fabricated accounts of events. The film is a revisit to a storytelling that makes one think through the (true, cruel) intentions and actions of characters. It thrives on its narrative structure (non-linear, the use of flashback) and story perspective (the Rashomon effect and methinks Ana’s point of view is even present as perhaps a creation of Joachim’s conscience?). To me, the truth about UnTrue is — it is compelling and well-told.

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