Rant and Rave: ‘Tuhog’

In this season where cinema houses are plagued by eye-catching international movie posters, what would make one spend his or her bills on seeing a locally crafted film? Worry not. Tuhog is a ride-all-you-can bus ticket that will take one to the many avenues of life.

The film starts with a bus accident causing the three protagonists to be literally skewered by a large metal pole.  Through flashbacks, the three-fold movie recounts the stories of the three main characters which will then lead to the convergent denouement. Tonio (Leo Martinez), a frustrated old patriarch of his family, gambles his pension in pursuit of achieving his dream of becoming a baker. The other one is Fiesta (Eugene Domingo) a middle-aged crotchety bus conductor by day, and a devoted daughter to her father by night.  She will later make a love affair with the newly recruited driver Nato (Jake Cuenca). Lastly, Caloy (Enchong Dee), a frustrated college student who is in a long-distance relationship, tries  to hold his promise of keeping his virginity before they get to each other.

A brainchild of  Cinemalaya award winning director Veronica Velasco, Tuhog is a shift from the tropes of the Philippine mainstream cinema. It has that spice of an indie film, with regards to its peculiar aura and thematic sense of successfully juggling heavy plot and comedy but still has that punch of a mainstream delight by showcasing a panoramic view of the contemporary Philippine society through the Bildungsroman subplots.

The question “Who will be saved?” that wrapped up the teaser of the film didn’t quite make everyone engaged. What rather made it intriguing is the interesting relationship of the three stories in a literal (human barbeque) and allegorical (commonalities in terms of life changing predicaments) essence.

With regards to its transitions, the first fifteen minutes of the film will leave the viewers in awe, as the morbid scenes will make them wonder whether they are watching a comedy film or a horror flick. However, the subsequent throwing of punch lines will make it clear that the film isn’t all ghastly.

It is also evident that they were able to utilize the allotted time frame so well by providing an  excellent script. Each line casted is just as equally important as the characters, as it is so crucial in digesting the content of the narrative. However, a few transitory sentiments were sacrificed and it seemed like the flow of events is quite fast-paced at times.

On matters of cinematography, the film doesn’t go all creative with the camera angles. Some of the climatic scenes could have been shot in better frames which could possibly have added more aesthetic appeal to the viewers. This could be justified given that the film was only produced in 23 days.

The casting, as observed in the trailer, oozes with so much acting prowess, considering that it is packed with veteran actors like Noel Trinidad who played Fiesta’s father and Leo Martinez as Tonio. Award-winning actress Eugene Domingo who played the role of Fiesta deviated from her usual roles of a witty and flamboyant lady. She proved her flexibility in her craft by exhibiting a fierce and strong façade.  Enchong Dee also lived up to his title as a versatile actor by playing for the first time, the role of a teenager frustrated mainly because of raging hormones.

Along the pile of hardly substantial local movies that were produced earlier this year, Tuhog, beyond doubt, is a manifestation of mainstream cinema taking a leap toward producing award-worthy pieces rather than just merely big-screen entertainment. It might not be a “complete-package” kind of film, but it is surely worth the price.

Rating: 3.0                       
Cirilo Cariga

By Cirilo Cariga

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