Fresh off two May-December movies from Cinemalaya comes another one from Viva Films – the first recent mainstream release. This is no longer a novelty, people! It’s legitimately a discourse. Let’s ride it and see how far this trend goes.
Just A Stranger explores the illicit affair between an aging trophy wife and a troubled young man. Arguably more pronounced than other films of its kind, both characters are a lot more loaded and carry so much baggage. They’re both adulterous, lonely, pressured, damaged – basically unhappy – individuals who find their sweet escape with each other. While they click and get along quite well, they keep their paradise exclusive and hidden while festering a frustration and eagerness to finally break free. The problem is, their worlds are so different and their fates so divergent that we know as an audience that their relationship is inevitably bound to fail.
In Jason Paul Laxamana fashion, there’s an unexpected twist in the end that doesn’t allow for a satisfying resolution – or an opportunity for the couple to take a stand. While admittedly maddening, there’s a poetic beauty in this choice that says a lot about really, deeply knowing a person: the dichotomy of open and hidden selves. It also sets up an interesting scene that lets it all out.
Anne Curtis has already established herself as a great actress and shows a more sultry yet assured side to her in JAS. She keeps mentioning she’s twice her partner’s age, but she hardly looks 40! Marco Gumabao surprised me. Not only is he able to go toe to toe with a more experienced actress like Anne, but he has the commanding presence of a leading man.
So with all the other similar-themed stories out there, why recommend Just A Stranger? It’s not the most realistic, the most politically charged, or the most romantic, for sure. But there’s a strange, alluring, irrational appeal to it. Isn’t that how we struggle to explain falling in love?