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Review: Tuhog

Dale's Review:

Last December, when Star Cinema's One More Try was shown in local cinemas, we pointed out how the movie got the idea from a 2007 Chinese film, In Love We Trust. This fact actually became subject of much criticism online and on these same pages we pointed out how the local version of the film, produced almost five years later, was inferior to the original. (Read our review of One More Try)

Yesterday, as soon as we posted on Facebook and Twitter that Tuhog is the finest film that Star Cinema has released locally this year, we were shown a Youtube video that seemed to confirm that the general idea of Tuhog was lifted off an episode of the popular medical drama series, Grey's Anatomy. To this, I quickly replied that beyond the medical aspect, the three individual stories within the film were quite decent on their own.

I personally have nothing against recycling ideas as long as studios make sure that they make improvements on them. For Tuhog, the similarity with that particular episode of Grey's ended on the impalement part which was used as a mere foreground for three compelling stories.

Story 1. Leo Martinez takes the audience through the journey of a retired old man who is going after his passion. On the way, we take a pit stop through his insecurities, the pain and fear of getting old and the comfort that is derived off family and friendships that have endured the years. Often poignant in its honesty, this story unearths our fears and makes us believe that so long as we have loved ones that stand by our side, we can do anything at any point in our lives.

Story 2. Eugene Domingo gives us Fiesta while Jake Cuenca gives us a version of himself that we have not seen before. Cuenca gives an honest performance that becomes a worthy catalyst of the story as a man who is trying to outrun his troubled life.

Fiesta, on the other hand, shows us a life that is as chaotic and as dreary as that fateful bus ride that eventually claims the life of a main character. Fiesta is often strong and she scares people but beyond her facade is a sad tale that is evident in Eugene Domingo's eyes. Even before we take that detour to see her life, we see that Fiesta is weighed down by the shadows of her past; her burden defying her tough exterior. We see a flicker of hope as she finds a way to live her life but this is only temporary and this ends painfully. 

Story 3. Enchong Dee gives us his career's most credible performance as Caloy. He takes us on a journey over the forgotten troubles of our youth and reminds us of a time when our lives revolved on nothing else but love. His troubles seem a tad less important than the other main leads but he managed to make us believe that without this love, his world could crumble just as easily as someone that stands to lose everything for risks taken at the twilight of his life.

These stories were ably skewered together by Veronica Velasco and Jinky Laurel in a manner that is long missed from Star Cinema films. While the film isn't perfect, it is by far the best product that Star Cinema has come up with in recent years. Devoid of that commercial and condescending feel that has become synonymous with the brand, this film simply restores our faith in the studio. It makes us look forward to similar projects that finally make us feel that Star Cinema (through its indie arm) can go beyond formula and help uplift the local film industry.

Rating: 4/5

Jae's Review:

The good: The three main character's individual storylines were well fleshed out and were obviously given great attention by the writer and director.

The drama scenes were not pilit, just shown in a matter-of-fact way which is how I like it - no TV Patrol or telenovela acting here.

All the actors seem to be in their element. Of course, this is expected from Eugene and Leo but what was surprising is how good Enchong and Jake were in this movie.

The (not so) bad: The movie took its time to tell the individual character's story, which is great and gave more depth to each of their storylines but the ending seemed to be too quick and sudden. I feel like they should have at least given more importance to the 'Tuhog' part in the end. It felt like the ending was rushed.

Should you watch this? Yup, not only for Enchong's shirtless scenes but also if you love a good story about life, death and the choices we make.

Rating: 3.5/5
Average Rating: 3.75

Dale Bacar
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  1. According to the director, this was not based on any episode of a series. It was based on a tabloid story that came out a few years back. That I would like to believe as well. :-)

  2. That is totally plausible. But like I said, whether or not the idea is from Grey's, the movie is pretty decent on its own so I guess it's all good.

  3. Anonymous7/21/2013

    Maganda nga po!

  4. Anonymous7/22/2013

    Watched it last night, and I agree with Dale's observation that the ending was rushed. I wished there was a happy ending for the character who died, but then, not all life has a happy ending, right?

  5. Nowadays, mainstream filmmakers often create stories to earn big bucks. Undeniably, these stories were generated out of wants of the viewers. Hence, these films are not of original and authentic piece of art. I would rather watch independent films like the one’s being shown in Cinemalaya, an indie film festival for filmmakers with utmost passion for the art.

    It is sad but true; “Tuhog” was one of the mainstream movies I am talking about. With due respect to the actors and actresses, the concept of incorporating three stories in one film is not new to me. It was used over and over in the film industry. In fact, GMA film’s “The Road” used three stories as a springboard to the main story. Although they tried to make it a little bit different from the others by inserting twists in the film; for example, the baby of Fiesta, which in the end she had to choose who would live between herself and the baby. Pretty much “Tuhog” follows the same pattern, acquainting us to the main characters by presenting their everyday lives, what is their personality, how they deal with the world and how will they be interconnected with other stories.

    Even though it was patterned to other films both international and local, I liked spontaneity of the interrelation of the lead characters. Tonio being a retired office worker, he has nothing to do in life other than spending time with his friends’ playing card games. Caloy, a college student living in a dormitory with his schoolmates have nothing to think of than his girlfriend Angel who transferred to the province. When his girlfriend came to town for a visit, Caloy immediately transported to see his girlfriend. Fiesta, for me the most interesting story, has nothing to care of than his drunkard father. He works hard all day in a bus to finance his father’s needs. Her mother left them in a mall when she was a kid. They waited for her mother to comeback until the closing of the mall but her mother didn’t returned. It caused her to have a trauma in closing stores. For the first time, he had a thing with a guy, Nato. They had sexual intercourse. And of course Fiesta bore a child but Nato didn’t knew he impregnate Fiesta. The common thing among the three stories was the fact that they all needed to ride a bus. This is where the spontaneity of the story kicks in. The presence of the lead characters in the accident was unforced, thus making it less stiff.

    Overall, the movie was so-so. I was not impressed but I was not disappointed as well. There’s this feeling that wanting more from it. The ending was too conventional that I felt the audience wanted that kind of a conclusion. For me, I wanted an ending that leaves more questions unanswered to which the audience will plot the conclusion themselves (I am really biased towards indie films).

    1. People seem to wear the I prefer indie films as a badge of taste these days much like when people used to say that it was baduy to watch Filipino movies.

      I always encourage people to read reviews but to come up with their own opinions afterwards as there is no accounting for taste. I also encourage people, however, not to label the films that they watch and base their judgment on those labels. A commercial film is just as capable of quality as indies, regardless of the intent why the film was made. There is nothing wrong with making a film with revenues in mind. End of the day, filmmakers cannot live on passion and love of the craft alone. Originality also does not translate to quality. A recycled and improved idea stands to be just as good (or better) as any original concept when executed properly.

      This is not to say that the points presented aren't valid. They are. I am just saying that we stand to see more once we remove the labels and expectations that we attach to the movies that we watch.