Putukan at poetic shit: A review of Lorna.

There was this wonderful trick in the first sequence of Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Lorna: It essentially summarized the story we were about it watch, but one will only realize it once the movie finishes. It also introduced the recurring metaphor for love used in the film. Bullets fired from guns were the modern-day Love arrows, and they left a bloody mess where they struck.

Lorna (2014) poster

Lorna was the story of one woman’s quest for love and the many men in her life: the ex-husband who left her, a foreign boyfriend, a returning old flame, and a charmer who pops up every so often. She was occasionally accompanied by two long-time friends, her son from her ex-husband, and a very randy housecat. The film had an impressive cast of actors, with Shamaine Buencamino as a very effective lead actress. Maria Isabel Lopez and Raquel Villavicencio were her two best friends; Ms. Lopez totally deserved her Best Supporting Actress win for playing the hilarious Elvie. Felix Roco was adorable as Lorna’s emocore son. Juan Rodrigo was refreshing as the guy with embarrassingly corny pick-up lines. Angel Aquino had a short, but scene-stealing appearance. And, of course, there was Lav Diaz.

Tangina, I love Lav Diaz.

Sigrid Bernardo is one of the probably few feminist filmmakers working right now, and Lorna had strong feminist themes. The beauty of it is how one won’t notice it at first; the feminism does not get in the way of entertainment. Lorna, just like her previous work, looked into the many facets of women’s lives, making them fully fleshed-out characters with histories and motivation. The roles women took for themselves were discussed, and the ideas of motherhood and womanhood examined through witty banter (typical of Sigrid’s screenplays) that combines heavy musings with humor. One of the few directors to consistently do so, Sigrid candidly presented women’s sexuality as a natural part of their being, not merely as a subject for jokes or titillation.

Sigrid is also a queer filmmaker. Unlike her previous film, however, Lorna was not about a gay character. There is a very minor queer subplot, although it might be one of the weaker aspects of the story. It felt underwritten and was explained as how a person might “change” which seems to send a message that sexual attraction is a choice. One of my main criticisms for the film were the inclusion of these intriguing plot points (another one was the backstory of Raquel Villavicencio’s character) which were not addressed in depth, making them feel like missed opportunities.

Another thing I can’t quite swallow is believing that Shamaine Buencamino (who is 49 years old) et al are a bunch of sixty-year old folks. This was perhaps lampshaded in the movie when Angel Aquino admitted within the story that she is supposedly fifty (fifty!) years old, but was told that she does not look fifty at all.

The movie had a delicious ending sequence where the character of Lorna, steaming while reading a romance novel in her favorite restaurant table, was surrounded by several couples making out. One of those couples were a pair of men (“Ano ba yan, puro mga bading,” exclaimed a man sitting behind us), the first to be shown. The whole sequence was played for comedy, but the inclusion of a gay couple in that shot was a subtle but strong statement on how love does not care for a person’s age nor gender.

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