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.
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.
Average Rating: 3.75