ACTING TOUR DE FORCE IN ‘LORNA’
by Pablo A. Tariman
The most preferred image for a lead star in Filipino movies is one preferably both beautiful and virginal and fit to be matched with an equally good-looking matinee idol.
Thus the endless array of so-called ‘kilig’ movies flooding the market. That they make money most the time is an argument for its continued existence.
Meanwhile, you turn to indie films and you come face to face with reality most of the time ignored by mainstream movies. Mainstream producers don’t like ordinary looking lead stars and ordinary looking leading men.
But the truth is more substantial love stories happen to ordinary people but filmmakers shy away from them because the characters are not potential money-makers.
Hence it is a big relief to watch a film like “Lorna” where the characters are the kind you see in ordinary life. The character played by Shamaine Centenera Buencamino is 60 years old, a single mother and do lectures on stress management for a living.
But she is waylaid every time she falls in love.
Every time a potential suitor comes along, she gamely plays coy but interested. Too bad most of them are married and can only offer friendly company.
In “Lorna” sensitively directed by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, Centenera played the title role and succeeded in carving a riveting portrayal that showed layers of character build up that showed the depth of her acting arsenals.
This even as the film is offered as a comedy package thus making everything light, wickedly symbolic and funny.
Her portrayal was aided in no small way by competent supporting actors who played her friends in a world composed of senior citizens who ceremoniously flash out their senior citizen IDs every time they settle a bill in their favorite restaurant.
The part of Racquel Villavicencio is that of a dedicated grandma who turns out to be a battered wife. The part of Isabel Lopez is one who refuses to face the reality of old age. She undergoes all those expensive treatments to hide the sagging of her 60-plus skin and does a regular workout to make herself more agile in bed and thus look hot enough for younger partners.
The characters of Centenera and Villavicencio play along like the supportive friends of Lopez that they are.
But as the story zeroes on Centenera’s character, you see a woman eager to fall in love and invest in it but is given the wrong end of the rope by her potential partners.
After one unrequited love after another, she meets a former schoolmate from whom he experienced her first kiss and one recollection after another, they fell in love all over again.
Centenera used not just her acting skills but also a generous exposure of her physique just to show how a 60-year old body looked like.
The scenes showing her figuring out her naked flesh in a mirror gave her moments of truth that she was way past her prime. But she would not give up looking for true love – at least one more time.
She found it – or so she thought — in the character beautifully played by filmmaker Lav Diaz. Their nudes scenes showed the purity of that love.
Diaz’s total nudity gave his character more appeal as a natural person who had no inhibitions about his body.
But Centenera’s winning moments are many but the one that stood out showed her in the arms of her lover enjoying the ecstasy of the flesh and in another moment, broke into sobs that all but uncovered the utter loneliness of her life.
No doubt about it, Centenera’s acting in “Lorna” is virtual tour de force and one doubts if any other actress in the recently concluded Cinema One Festival can come closer to that performance.
Of course members of festival jury have their own individual taste that translates into scoreboard points in the final judging.
But the role Centenera played comes once in a rare while in Philippine cinema and she gave it all she had and emerged a total actress.
It is one incredible performance seen lately in Nora Aunor (“Dementia”) and Eugene Domingo (“Barber’s Tales”).
But from one scene to another, the actress was reminiscent of Meryl Streep in “Bridges of Madison County” and in another, of Charito Solis in her final scenes in Lino Brocka’s “Ina, Kapatid, Anak.”
One must say that the supporting actors (Lopez, Villavicencio, Felix Roco and especially Diaz) did just as well.
For this reason, one looks forward to another directorial output by Bernardo whose grasp of the subject led to this memorable film on sex, love, marriage and the senior citizen.