Lianne (Judy Ann Santos) and Cindy (Angelica Panganiban) find themselves in the precarious situation of being the discarded wives whose husbands, Gary (Joross Gamboa) and Felix (JC de Vera), are having an affair with each other. They decide to team up to stop their husbands from achieving the joy and happiness that they have deprived them.
The most impressive thing about Jun Lana’s Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes is while it clearly stands by its advocacy, it doesn’t succumb to the convenience of reducing its characters into stereotypes of straightforward vice and virtue. Their motivations are not simplistic, grounded not just in vengeful emotions or the necessary tropes of the reengineered narrative of the disgraced wife begging for her spouse’s love but on their capacity to accept the fallibility of humanity, that notion that even the wives in a movie that tackles marital infidelity can go overboard and the homosexuals in a movie that champions homosexuality can err.
Fresh, novel and brave
The world that Lana and screenwriter Elmer Gatchalian populates with their well-rounded characters is one carved out of a movie mold that has been strained and exploited by major movie studios for its capacity to fan out grand drama out of intimate and domestic controversies.
However, the miracle of their film is that it isn’t so much a lampoon or satire of the tired mistress genre as it is a superior entry. It is a film that fully understands the ludicrousness of finding pleasure in redundant tales that center on illicit affairs. Instead of persisting to simply mining the tired narrative for refurbished fun, it ups the ante by making it more contemporary and weaving into it a clever agenda. Its tale is as old as time, but by infusing grounded insight on the more intricate nature of love and loving, and exploring it within the confines of traditional monogamy – but with the added complication of the ever expanding concept of sexuality – it all feels fresh, novel, and even brave.
In that sense, Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes is a very remarkable film.
Even if it is obviously light years ahead and more enlightened than everything from Ruel Bayani’s No Other Woman (2011) to Chito Roño’s Etiquette for Mistresses (2015), it thankfully has no self-appointed sense of intellectual prestige over its ilk that tackle the same sensational premise. The film uplifts, elucidates, and informs with striking humility, ensuring that its loftier aims never interfere with or overpower its more entertaining aspects. Its humor is pertinent to its tale and never feels like it is out of spite or jest of its genre. It earns the laughs. It labors for its drama. Sure, everything about the film originates from formula with its own set of expectations, but the film never gets lazy.
Santos and Panganiban’s portrayal of their characters should be lauded as well. Their roles are not easy to depict, considering the convenience of simply surrendering to clichéd gestures is immense.
Designed in the way that their dramatic moments are always measured enough to allow the most sudden of comic twists, their performances reveal a disarming maturity in the way they understand the situations of their characters. They are never oblivious of the stark absurdity of their situation yet they never resort to slapstick or broad comedy. In their delivery of their jokes, there is always some leeway for essential empathy.
The same can be said for Gamboa, and to a certain degree, De Vera.
Their characters are somewhat written to rely on general expectations of their assigned gender roles yet also, the film progresses to abandon those expectations and instead appeals that they be viewed not as the sexual orientations they represent but simply imperfect human beings whose capacity for love puts them into precarious situations.
Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes proves that Lana may perhaps be the most cleverly innovative director working actively for commercial studios right now.
He isn’t simply telling stories that entertain.
He fits a personal and progressive aim within stories that have been tested to tickle the imaginations of the public. It can even be said that his films are subtly radical with its dutiful sprinkling of liberal views within beloved but antiquated filmic molds. Haunted Mansion (2015) subverts the Filipino horror with its secular concept of salvation from evil. While both The Prenup (2015) and Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?I (2016) have heterosexual romances as their core stories, they also espouse same-sex love.
Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes is far more overt in its motives. Lana however earns all the right to be loud and proud. His film is incessantly fun. – Rappler.com
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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