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Metro Manila Film Festival 2022: Telling disturbing truths

By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter

Movie ReviewNanahimik ang GabiDirected by Shugo PraicoMTRCB Rating: R-13

THE DILEMMA of whether to close one’s eyes and keep silent or speak up about situations of injustice is something we all grapple with in life. In this suspense thriller, it’s also something the main character Me-Ann must face as she uncovers layers of lies and traumatic truths.

Nanahimik Ang Gabi (translating to “A Silent Night”) was cooked up by writer-director Shugo Praico and co-produced by Philip King and Lino Cayetano through the production company Rein Entertainment. Previously, they created the 2019 crime drama Bagman, which also dealt with themes of injustice, impunity, and twisted love.

At the heart of this gripping, disturbing film is Heaven Peralejo, who gives a stunning performance as Me-Ann.

She is introduced as a sweet, seemingly naive lover who is brought to the middle of nowhere by her sugar daddy Chief, played by Ian Veneracion. Then she does a great job at playing confused and terrified as the romantic getaway goes wrong fast and horrific injustices are unveiled.

Although Nadine Lustre bagged the MMFF Best Actress award for Deleter, it would be foolish to dismiss Ms. Peralejo’s visceral turn in Nanahimik Ang Gabi that ranges from sexy, sensual, and naively stubborn to desperate, flawed, and ultimately heroic.

Mr. Veneracion, known as a heartthrob in his other work, also starts off predictably as he plays a handsome police officer engaging in a steamy, extramarital affair. It’s when things get dark and we learn of Chief’s secrets relating to a culture of corruption and violence that his inner, complex monster steals the show, earning him a Best Actor win.

Rounding out the powerful trio is Mon Confiado’s performance as Soliman, the film’s intimidating home invader and supposedly crazy antagonist. It plays out as expected — a show of Mr. Confiado’s talent and dedication as a character full of suffering and grief for which he garnered a Best Supporting Actor award.

The film excels when Soliman’s motivations for terrorizing the couple are revealed and Me-Ann’s sympathy for him clashes with Chief’s instinct to eliminate the threat.

But before that, director Praico and his crew’s experienced handling of the technical side is evident, with the cinematography and production design creating atmospheric moments of foreshadowing. The beautiful house is the location for a thriller, always shot eerily when Me-Ann wanders the halls filled with ominous, red-and-black-colored abstract art, or takes selfies in spacious rooms where maggots squirm deep in the sink.

The violent scenes are then shot and choreographed dynamically, as if putting the viewer in the same stressful scenario as the characters. However, a film portraying grueling situations for its characters should not be as grueling for the audience.

This film’s downfall is that it lacks brevity. Mr. Veneracion and Mr. Confiado, though excellent in their roles, are given a script that requires too much soliloquizing and monologuing that can tire out the viewer. And the pacing itself can still be improved, as it’s understandably slow at first with catalyzing events not yet kicking off, and extremely frenzy-like in the middle as revelation upon revelation is piled on us.

Tighter editing could have shortened the two-hour-10-minute film to a more reasonable runtime. If the storytelling was more concise, then this could have done more justice to the overall promising concept.

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