Of all the triumphs going for Diane Ventura’s first feature-length film, Mulat (Awaken), its genre-bending narrative style and the ace performances of its actors perhaps take the cake. Chief in this long list are its two lead actors—Jake Cuenca (who plays the morose Jake) and Ryan Eigenmann (who is dynamite as Vince)—both of whom effectively quash any preconceived notions viewers may have of their abilities due to their notoriety in more mass-leaning vehicles. Newcomer Loren Burgos is also not to be shrugged off, and it is her impassioned turn as Sam, in equal doses forceful and vulnerable, which serves as the movie’s anchor. Supporting cast members such as the sparring couple of Logan Goodchild (Logan) and Candy Pangilinan (Cathy), as well as theater mainstay Madeleine Nicolas (Sam’s mom), also deserve kudos.
But let’s not kid ourselves here: Ventura’s material is topnotch, and it is our good fortune that she is adamant in presenting things, well, differently. What in lesser hands will be a straightforward three-way love story gets a shot in the arm with the young director at the helm. What we have instead in Mulat is a psychological thriller, a time-hopping mystery, and a perspective-rich romance rolled into one, where linearity is challenged and logic is refashioned. Some may view it as difficult, but any worthwhile experiment is worth some work. And the critics agree: Mulat is worth laboring over. Since its global debut a while back, Ventura has bagged Best Director for Global Feature, while Jake Cuenca took home Best Actor at the International Film Festival Manhattan 2015. The film also won Best Narrative Feature at the World Cinema Festival in Brazil, where Cuenca once again snagged Best Actor honors. Mulat was also given the “A” rating by the Cinema Evaluation Board.
In retrospect, Diane Ventura’s previous output, the Cherie Gil starrer TheRapist, was a portent of fine things to come. Another psychological vehicle, the short film is yet another triumph in less-is-more craftsmanship, and it approached weighty issues (rape, abuse, sexuality, psychoanalysis) with deft hands. A new trailer for said film, which got a G rating from the MTRCB after initially being deemed unfit for public viewing, will also be shown in local screenings of Mulat.