About Us But Not About Us will change the way you look at lunch dates.
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Slight spoilers for the movie ahead.
At first glance, two people meeting up for lunch to catch up during the pandemic doesn’t sound like the most thrilling of elevator pitches. But that’s the beauty of Jun Robles Lana’s About Us But Not About Us. Since 2022, Lana’s thriller on a gay teacher and his student talking about their relationship over lunch has been making noise. International screenings and award wins put this unique film on the map. And with its recent entry to the first-ever summer edition of MMFF, it’s practically begging for your attention.
Not only did it bag 11 nominations, but it won 9, the most of any film, including most of the major prizes such as Best Director, Best Lead Actor for Romnick Sarmenta, and the coveted Best Picture. So, the hype is there. But is it worth it? The answer is a strong yes as Lana delivers an interesting thriller on a silver platter. If the film’s recent award wins have gotten you curious to watch it, we break down some of the standout aspects of this movie.
THE LEAD STARS ATE, FIGURATIVELY AND LITERALLY
A movie like this lives or dies by the strength of its performances. Luckily, its two lead stars, Romnick Sarmenta and Elijah Canlas, step up to the plate. Sarmenta plays Eric, a gay professor at UP while Canlas embodies Lance, a troubled student who found a friend in Eric. Although 95% of the movie is set in the same location, the two stars rarely look bored. They managed to add something new every 10 minutes of the film.
As About Us peels back the layers of their relationship that goes way deeper than it should, Sarmenta and Canlas bring out that bubbling intensity. Sarmenta plays Eric to a T as he channels the tormented dynamics of this complicated professor. He won Best Actor for a reason. As for Canlas, he’s near-devilish as Lance, a student who isn’t afraid to go to extremes to get what he wants. It’s yet another feather in his cap as he solidifies himself as one of the new generation’s best actors.
A third character, Marcus, who is Eric’s deceased partner, has a crucial role in the film. But he isn’t played by another actor. Instead, he’s ping-ponged by the two leads as they take turns embodying a man who plays an important role in their relationship. Needless to say, it adds to the impressiveness of the acting. Each line and revelation is delivered with confidence and emotion as you see two people start what amounts to a mini-Cold War at a restaurant table.
THE STORY IS GRIPPING
Director Jun Robles Lana’s pen was penning when he wrote this story. A movie told entirely through dialogue from a table could have easily gone sideways or been accused of being a 90-minute exposition dump. But About Us avoids that by delivering a tight plot that holds you even tighter with its twists and turns. You could cut the tension of this movie with a knife. Every line isn’t wasted as Eric and Lance slowly reveal themselves as people who are not what we imagined them to be.
The movie zigs and zags wonderfully as new secrets are uncovered. The movie can make you feel like you’re listening in on a conversation you aren’t supposed to hear. It turns the seemingly welcoming act of a lunch date into a hostile environment. The intriguing story will have you invested until the very end as you sit on the edge of your seat, waiting for the new piece of the puzzle to drop. If you think About Us is done with its surprises, its narrative manages to hit you with another one.
EXCELLENT USE OF A SINGLE SETTING
At just over 90 minutes, About Us But Not About Us uses its time wisely to say what it needs to say. With the kind of story it’s telling, the movie could have easily been envisioned in a more conventional plot structure. Not a lot of movies can get away with setting their characters in one spot. Eric and Lance don’t even move much, they’re mostly sat down as they talk to each other. This is why it’s a testament to the strength of the cast and crew that it still works so well.
It uses the table setting effectively as it straps the audience into hearing and seeing what the characters have to say. As Lance and Eric sit there and go through their complicated relationship, you can’t help but imagine how the stories they share play out. It’s telling that the film isn’t boring with all that it has going for it. This lunch date keeps you invested.
Overall, About Us But Not About Us is a fine movie on the perils of a student-teacher dynamic and how we sometimes don’t fully know the people we think we’re close to. A well-written script and excellent acting combine for a movie that knows exactly what it’s doing. This film is one of the most interesting works of fiction Philippine cinema has seen in years. Admittedly, its single setting won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But as long as you come in with proper expectations, you’re set for a thriller that does it better than most of the conventional fair of the genre.
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