MANILA, Philippines - "Sonata," the Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes film that is part of this year's Sineng Pambansa Film Festival, truly showcases the beauty of the island of Negros, particularly its western, Ilonggo-speaking side.
This is the splendid backdrop to the unlikely friendship between a young boy and a retired opera diva.
Cherie Gil is Regina Cadena, a Negrense opera star who lives in Europe. Her name is an inspired brainchild, because Regina Cadena is a regal soul fettered by her circumstances.
As in real life, names determine the character and fate of real people like ourselves and of fictional characters like Regina Cadena.
Any storyteller knows this insight. Thus, the almost parental care for naming characters.
We need not be intimidated by the power and aura of words, including our names, because they are ours to wield for our benefit, depending on our outlook.
But going back to Regina. She loses her voice right away in the opening scene, which features CGI effects to recreate the Coliseum.
The doctors cannot determine whether this condition is permanent or temporary, and this causes despair, which, to be sure, is compounded by other facets in Regina's story.
When she returns to her home province of Negros Occidental, Regina meets a young boy, Jon-Jon (newcomer Chino Jalandoni), with whom she develops an almost organic friendship. Perhaps it's the child inside her that recognizes something in the boy.
Little would she anticipate that Jon-Jon will show the path to Regina's redemption.
With Chino Jalandoni (left) and Joshua Pineda
But her life will also be disrupted by her encounter with an ex-lover (Richard Gomez).
The worldly wise diva gets to know the provincial lad better, and in the course of this friendship she rediscovers the grand yet silent beauty of art, and nature, and the divine, healing power of love.
The script by Wango Gallaga captures the poetic eloquence of the Negrense spirit. The story has a lot of heart and reveals the love and the ties bounded by the land on its people, including these fictional characters.
The poignant, emotional moments rendered me in tears, and the funny, heartwarming scenes got me laughing like crazy.
Gil, in her portrayal, seems to know her character inside out. In her dramatic scenes, her acting pulls at your heartstrings, and yet when she conveys joy, it really comes from within.
Her singing comes from a place of pain, which she clearly gets across. And she radiates her charm effortlessly on screen.
It's a wonder to behold this actress, who is often typecast as a contrabida - a stereotype that she also accepts wholeheartedly and wields like a toy.
Cherie Gil has that range that really qualifies her as one of our great actresses. The predominant Olympian gods in this universe are, of course, Lolita Rodriguez and Charito Solis, and Nora and Vilma.
Jalandoni (right) takes direction from Gallaga
Jalandoni lights up the screen as well with his wholesomeness, and I look forward to watching more honest portrayals by this talented boy in the future.
The chemistry between the two is reason enough to watch "Sonata." But it is the beauty of Negros, so captured by the Gallaga-Reyes team, that is the real star of the film. - Rappler.com
Produced by the Film Development Council of the Philippines, My Own Mann Productions, Central Digital Lab, Wild Sound Inc and Ruby’s Arms Production Services, 'Sonata' stars Cherie Gil, Chart Motus, Joshua Pineda, Chino Jalondoni, and Richard Gomez in a striking cameo. The film opens September 11 at all SM cinemas.
Here's the trailer: