Movie review: 'Jino to Mari'

April 07, 2019
Jino to Mari

“JINO To Mari”, an entry in the current Sinag Maynila Filmfest, is a movie that will agitate you or even make you angry. Gino (Oliver Aquino) is a male sex worker catering to gays. He does it to help his grandmother who raised him and his sister. He’s also sending his younger sister to school. Marie (Angela Cortez) is a single mother who also earns a living by prostitution to raise her little daughter.

For both of them, having sex with their customers is just a way to earn a living, not a dalliance or a pastime. You can really feel the poverty in their lives in the very small rooms they call home. They treat the oldest profession in a very matter-of-fact manner.

On the eve of Todos Los Santos, they’re contacted by a common friend to do a sex video for a Japanese pornographer. They agreed to do it for P10,000 each. They have to go to a remote island off Mauban, Quezon where the shoot will take place in a rest house. So we follow them taking the bus from Cubao to Lucena, then another bus to Mauban, and a big boat going to an island (Cagbalete). It’s the first time for both of them to do the sex act in front of a camera.

The film is from Joselito “Jay” Altarejos, who has done hit pink films like “Ang Lalaki sa Parola” and “Lihim ni Antonio”, and award-winning films with gay characters like “Kasal” and “Tale of the Lost Boys”. In this film, there’s also a homosexual scene involving Gino servicing a gay customer, but the bulk of the film shows heterosexual sex, except towards the end when there is an orgy scene and some perverted sex acts.

The movie is an hour and a half and the last half hour is devoted to the shoot of the porno film. It features both male and female frontal nudity and the moral guardians of our society would understandably be repelled by all the graphic sex portrayed in it.

The first thing you’d notice about the movie is the very long journey the lead characters take to get to their destination. The bus trip takes 6 hours, the boat trip makes some the passengers sea sick because the waves are so big, then there’s a long walk where they even have to pass through a cemetery on All Saints Day.

This indicates that their journey is really a descent into hell on the day of the dead on an experience in the underworld that will surely traumatize them for the rest of their lives. This is quite obvious in the use of Schubert’s “Ellen’s Third Song” as the musical score in some vital scenes. It’s more popularly known as the “Ave Maria”.

We cannot go into details in describing what kind of abuse that Gino and Marie were forced to do. They refused at first, but had to eventually do it against their will because they will not be paid if they won’t. It’s exploitation to the max and the depravity will surely disgust and incense you, even if you’re already a jaded viewer.

Altarejos is obviously aware that there are unscrupulous Japanese videographers who take advantage of the poverty of some of our countrymen and really come here purposely to film them doing actual copulation. No wonder the savagery done to Gino and Marie was accompanied by voice over reports of Japanese atrocities perpetrated during World War II.

The film is very well acted, especially by Angela Cortez who gives a relaxed, very natural and ultimately, very touching portrayal of Marie. Giving excellent support is Perry Escano as the Pinoy supervising producer of the Japanese pornographer. He projects his role with such chilling and convincing insensitivity that you’re sure he doesn’t have a conscience or a soul at all.

Only insensitive viewers will find “Jino to Mari” a schlocky guilty pleasure that will cater to their salacious baser instincts. The ones who are not yet callous enough, and can still somehow feel, will be agonizing and even despair over the nightmarish plight of sex workers, which, we think, is the aim of Altarejos in making this kind of movie. In short, you can either hate it or love it, treat it with fascination or revulsion, but you sure as hell cannot just ignore it.