By Redentor Lagrimas Lebantino
Movie Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
OF all the secrets that are kept hidden, the enduring ones deserve to be finally caught in the open—the insidiously dangerous, the utter deception.
It is the unravelling of this deception that Nanahimik ang Gabi primarily tells, a thriller with three characters interacting within a bubble: a retreat mansion physically obscure from the outside world. The house holds so much of the secret and carries the other meaning for ‘retreat,’ the euphemism for its brutality and darkness.
Through a right-hand man, an unnamed police officer only known as Chief (Ian Veneracion) brings his kept woman Me-Ann (Heaven Peralejo) to the mansion supposedly for a much-awaited intimate respite. What awaits her is the opposite of what she imagines. When pressed to seek the truth, what is opened is not just a can of worms but a revelation that puts her in danger.
The shots serving the male gaze with Heaven Peralejo as the subject could have been lessened. After all, Peralejo’s allure as a character is beyond her sexual affair with Veneracion. It’s her rise from the deception, that is.
The camera work eventually eases into the film’s look. Cinematographer Mo Zee visualizes the mansion in its physical emptiness and keeps its horror looming. The chasing scenes are worthy endeavors, the events leading to their rightful destination with the needed intensity.
The music by Greg Rodriguez III is balanced. It keeps up with the emotional highs without the tendency to overwhelm. The score is utilized with the right cinematic flare, contributing to the intensifying narrative. The editing also by Zee looks light. It manages to piece together details that slowly but poignantly reach the film’s peak.
Including a newbie like Heaven Peralejo in a film that requires talent and skill may look unconvincing, but the actress is apparently up for the game. From her first scene to her last, Peralejo believably looks the part. At first, she is a young but cunning lover, interacting with Veneracion like a real kept woman who knows what she wants. She evolves as the film does and gradually peels off her character with a sense of thematic necessity.
Me-Ann is written as a vulnerable but strong character. In need of a man’s salvation initially, Peralejo assimilates the transformative grit and the liberating courage of a woman using her power. Her brimming empathy for Mon Confiado’s character further humanizes Me-Ann. It is with such empathy that she regains what may be left of her dignity. Peralejo’s performance is commendable, a feat not all actors her age achieve.
While Confiado’s performance may appear theatrical, he remains as reliable as ever. Her scenes with Peralejo give off that soft, heartwarming feel to the film’s overall atmosphere.
Veneracion’s performance rightfully earned him the MMFF Best Actor this year. His effortless charm drops the bait for Peralejo, making his wiles of deception a strong narrative pull. When he reveals his true colors, he also opens his very soul–the man serving a bigger monster, the man whose power is imminently threatened by a woman regaining her own.
A fully-shaped thriller
Shugo Praico’s writing takes note of character evolution. It pays much attention to how a weak character transforms into a strong one, with the right motivation to seek justice or to be free, as evidenced by Peralejo’s Me-Ann. How Veneracion’s Chief is written reflects the nature of deception. Praico smartly weaves the tale with knowledge of how lies are meant to manipulate and maintain power.
At two hours and four minutes, Praico brings in a thriller with a premise that evokes curiosity. He develops it into compelling sequences that slowly unravel the truth, with performances from actors that disappear into their characters. The end staggers with a reclamation of dignity and power, making possible a fully-shaped thriller.
banner photo: screenshot of trailer courtesy Rein Entertainment