Published On: Mon, Feb 24th, 2020

‘UnTrue’ review: Never dull or drab

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DIFFERENT STORY. Cristine Reyes and Xian Lim star in 'Untrue.' All screenshots from YouTube/Viva Films

DIFFERENT STORY. Cristine Reyes and Xian Lim star in ‘Untrue.’ All screenshots from YouTube/Viva Films

Sigrid Bernardo’s UnTrue is a film that ingeniously skirts being boxed.

Potential meet-cute

The film opens with crimson-haired Mara (Cristine Reyes), whose face is gravely bruised and bloodied, interrogated by a cop.

Her narration of the events that led to her sorry state starts with a potential meet-cute. While hurrying to go to work, she bumps Joachim (Xian Lim), causing him to drop a bottle of wine. They meet again in the restaurant where Mara works as a waitress and whose owner is Joachim’s friend. The film shifts mood, overtly employing clichés that define thrillers.

Mara, on her way home, starts to feel like she’s being followed. Joachim is following her, and eventually woos her to let him into her life, briskly becoming her boyfriend, then her husband, while showing signs of a split personality.

Just when the film positions Mara as its protagonist, it again shifts perspective, this time, with Joachim recounting the same events but with him as the victim instead of the predator.

UnTrue thrives in blurring perceptions. Bernardo deftly orchestrates the tropes of the genres she attempts to navigate to keep her audience in a state of invested confusion. She absolutely knows her film teeters towards being utterly preposterous but instead of veiling it with drab subtlety, she pushes the envelope, thrusting her characters in situations that are too crazed to make any sense. The most fascinating thing here is that it all works. The film embraces its many excesses resulting in a work that is deranged and pulpy, which is refreshing in a market where thrillers have become bereft of any surprises.

DARK. Sigrid Bernardo takes on a different story for Viva Films.

DARK. Sigrid Bernardo takes on a different story for Viva Films.

Strange and foreign land

Bernardo makes the most of her exotic setting.

UnTrue benefits from the feeling of utter isolation that two Filipinos alone in a strange and foreign land evoke. There is a sense that the two characters, no matter how violent or abusive they are to each other, are inseparable, seemingly linked by some cruel twist of fate. It also helps that the film does not try to romanticize its setting, and while it showcases picturesque cityscapes and flatlands, it is careful to always shoot the vistas with a tinge of mystery.

The performances of Reyes and Lim are aptly blunt, sometimes to the point of being caricature-like.

Instead of being a liability, the exaggerated gestures and emotionality of Reyes and Lim fit the deranged nature of Bernardo’s picture. There is no room for pleasantries in the film. It is brusque and often awkward, endeavoring for bewilderment instead of art and boring good taste. This is probably Bernardo’s most reckless yet exciting film. While it is obviously designed, the film is defiantly as unhinged as its characters.

Defying expectations

It won’t be accurate to say that UnTrue is a good film because it insists on defying expectations. It is, however, consistently stupefying.

UnTrue is never dull and drab. Just when it seems to become predictable, it pulls a fast one, making it an intriguing experience from first frame to last. –

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass.

Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.

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