The gripe

Ferdinand S. Topacio - The Philippine Star
The gripe
Louise delos Reyes and Diego Loyzaga play husband and wife, Cris and Mara. After a few years of wedded bliss, Cris hooks up with his former girlfriend Lee (Cara Gonzales) for a one-night stand. Mara finds out and gives him the typical ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ treatment.
Photos courtesy of Vivamax

Movie review: The Wife

MANILA, Philippines — The movie starts off in medias res: Mara (played by Louise delos Reyes) is having a night out with her friends. Suddenly, she wanders off (“I need alcohol,” she says), and walks around the streets aimlessly. Intercut to love scenes of Cris (Diego Loyzaga) and Lee (newcomer Cara Gonzales).

Things are explained soon enough. Cris and Mara are husband and wife. Cris gets “the itch” after a few years of wedded bliss, and hooks up with his former girlfriend Lee for a one-night stand. Mara finds out (it is not clear how) and gives him the typical “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” treatment.

Profoundly contrite, Cris vows to make it up to her and “regain her trust.” This he does by cooking her steak and following her around in her regular jogging jaunts like a puppy. Eventually, after fighting for the television remote control one cold night (the movie is set in Baguio City, by the way), they forgive each other.

Then disaster strikes! Cris is diagnosed with cancer. The couple resolve to beat the disease together in front of a doctor (Lander Vera-Perez, looking like he would rather be somewhere else). Nonetheless, Cris’ cancer takes a turn for the worse, and Mara is overwhelmed by the responsibility of taking care of a terminally-sick husband, losing a job and not having enough money to pay for healthcare.

From out of the blue emerges Lee in front of the connubial residence. She has heard about Cris’ condition and wants to help. Mara is indignant, and in short order, violently pushes Lee out of her home, in spite of Lee’s protestations that she has just arrived and has no place to stay. Waiting for a cab outside, Lee then hears Mara’s cry for help as Cris has to be quickly rushed to the hospital.

As her husband’s prognosis turns from bad to worse, and with her new job preventing her from caring for Cris full-time, Mara grudgingly accepts Lee’s offer of an extra hand. At first, Mara confines her to doing menial jobs, which Lee does patiently while wearing the skimpiest of attires.

But Mara’s friends, and even her brother, start getting tired of helping out. Lee is the only one left to count on. In the midst of the difficulties of caring for a seriously ill person, the two become close, especially after Mara finds out that Cris and Lee only had sex for one night after he married Mara, and that thereafter, guilt-stricken, he breaks up (again) with Lee, professing that it is Mara he loves.

Even leaving aside the debate as to whether or not a wife and her husband’s lover can unite for a common purpose, and even become best friends, the movie has few things to recommend it.

The technical aspects are good enough, with the cinematographer even indulging in some innovative techniques. Where it fails is in the acting department.

Louise is very competent, of course, albeit showing a propensity to lapse into histrionics once in a while. But Cara is something else. Although quite pleasant to look at, she can’t act to save the Earth from an alien invasion.

In their confrontation scenes, Louise just swallows her whole, and while she can handle the lighter stuff, her face has a tendency to go blank. Diego, very good in Death Of A Girlfriend (2020), is a total dud here, totally unconvincing either as a remorseful husband or a dying one. Rafa Siguion Reyna (as Mara’s brother) is also notable for showing all the emotional range of a slab of concrete in his one and only scene.

Louise tries her best to make the movie a showcase for her considerable acting skills, but she can only do so much with such flimsy material. And even if you’re only there for the passionate sex scenes for which Vivamax offerings are becoming known for, you will be roundly disappointed: Cara here is not as daring, or her scenes as long, as many, or as explicit, as in her other movies, like for instance Siklo (2021).

To be fair, director Denise O’Hara — who also wrote the script — knew exactly where the story was going. It was just that it took so long to get there. What could have been a watchable one-hour slice of life drama was eminently an ordeal to sit through when stretched to a run time of one hour and 40 minutes.

In sum, The Wife is like some wedding ceremonies: too long, too trite, and too foregone in its conclusion. While beautifully photographed and with excellent production design (thanks to the multi-awarded Ericson Navarro), like some weddings, one is simply glad when it’s all over. That, to me, is The Gripe.




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