NADINE Lustre in “Ulan” will surprise a lot of her fans because the movie is not your typical romcom or love story. We’ve heard many stars describing their film as “kakaiba” but when we watch it, we’re disappointed. This is one film where the word “kakaiba” truly applies as it’s most certainly unique, very different from the usual films churned out by local cinema. It’s very daring for Viva Films to bankroll this kind of project which is told with a touch of whimsy and a heavy dose of wild imagination.
Nadine plays Maya, a girl who first got her heart broken when her parents died and she lives with her paternal grandma (Perla Bautista). Later on, her grandma also dies and she lives with her aunt and uncle (Andrea del Rosario and William Martinez.) Then, two boys also break her heart (AJ Muhlach and Marco Gumabao.)
As a child, she sees supernatural creatures called tikbalang getting married in the rain. Later on, she sees a personified typhoon (splendidly played by a nearly unrecognizable Angeli Bayani) bawling her heart out while the wind and rain rage on. She meets another guy (Carlo Aquino) and you’d expect she’ll finally have the happy ending that she deserves. But in the end, the film actually becomes more a coming-of-age story, a journey of courage and faith where the grown up Maya meets her child persona and she learns to dance gleefully in the rain with her younger self.
The movie says that such figments of the imagination as tikbalangs and personified typhoons can be a source of inner strength and fortitude in the face of grief and other negative circumstances. The lead character in this film is frequently knocked down by the unpredictable twists and turns of life, but in the end, she comes out stronger with the help of the supernatural elements in the story which leaves open the possibility that they maybe more than just a figment of her imagination. Truth to tell, we can never be quite certain.
Nadine previously showed some flair for serious drama in “Never Not Love You”, but as the protagonist in “Ulan”, she has no difficulty in portraying the strong, dark emotional undercurrents that her character’s journey calls for. She gets excellent support from Perla Bautista as her caring grandma, Carlo Aquino as the third man in her life who gives her reason to love again, Leo Martinez as her hilarious boss, Josef Elizalde as her macho gay best friend, child actress Elia Ilano as the young Nadine, Marco Gumabao (with star quality written all over him) as her second boyfriend and Kylie Versoza as the bitchy associate of Marco who has her own designs on him.
This is also writer-director Irene Villamor’s most serious work to date compared to her more flippant romances from “Relax, It’s Just Pag-ibig” and “Camp Sawi” to “Sid and Aya” and “Meet Me in St. Gallen”. She gets to play out her fantasies on a grand scale and you can feel the loopiness of her spirit breaking free in this venture of hers into magic realism. Those seeking just light entertainment and romantic escapism will be disappointed since the material is somewhat dark, even dealing with anger and loss and disappointment, but those who want a different kind of cinematic experience will find it quite rewarding.