You may think you've heard the story before, and maybe you have. A boy falls in love with his childhood best friend, who happens to be a boy too, and he keeps his feelings secretly up unto his adult life. It sounds like your own story or your friend's or dozens of foreign films on the subject. Afterall, isn't repression a staple on the gay literary menu? It's practically inseparable from the territory of homo experience. But there's an authenticity and richness to Sikil's portrayal that makes it one of the more evocative Pinoy gay romances perhaps ever, and especially in a recent wave of films that try to do just that but fail.
Though structured with two intercutting lives, the point of view really belongs to Enzo (Ken Escudero), the one in love. The movie's best moments are those that zing with his romantic pain. When he finds he's been left alone in the brook by his friend who went canoodling with his girlfriend, on his own bike, he's wet and naked and shouting his friend's name -- you know you have a movie that understands the double-edged nature of his love: What gives him reason to live is also what's killing him inside.
I'm still waiting for the movie that can dig into the character of the straight-guy-object with the same forceful inner reflection. Adong (Will Sandejas), the best friend who prefers the girl, though sketched with careful detail in childhood, eventually turns, at film's end, into more of the usual man of mystery. What, finally, is the shape and color of his feelings for his friend? We're left to guess from a few tentative clues. From Sa Paraiso Ni Efren's Efren to ZsaZsa Zaturnnah's Dodong to Ang Lalake Sa Parola's Mateo, with countless other macho men past, our films have always seem content on leaving the straight-guy-who-does-gay-things be. We venerate them with their inscrutability. Only the fags are battered inside out with brutal analysis. Anyway, it's our story.
Both male leads are hot, and able new actors. Ken Escudero plays Enzo like a hapless martyr child. His lust seems almost saintly. Will Sandejas has a gruff and guarded exterior that rubs nicely against bursts of open playfulness. I just couldn't get why his embraces with his best friend are always softpedaled by light taps on the back. It made me think he or the filmmakers weren't really ready for a straight guy like Adong to accept gay Enzo's love, up til the end. The actors' sweet bodies and sweet, sweet butts are nicely displayed, but the two frontal exposures elsewhere are not theirs. Some of the sexy men in the background include Rico Lazaro, Roger Little, Richard Guebar, Andrew Morgan, Harold Montano, and Marvin Ignacio.
There are glimpses of a gay underworld that leaves me more curious than enlightened: a gay bar with elaborate costumed sex shows, a garden-air bath house with a what's-going-on cruising dynamics, a bondage torture event in what appears to be a parking lot or garage, a dingy moviehouse inhabitted by one regular joe pimp and fags loudly offering handjobs, a faux video scandal porn set helmed by an over-the-top director. The two men, as working prostitutes in Manila, navigate this memorable, if not fully realized, world. The family melodrama is sincere enough to avoid histrionics, though it skids dangerously close. How can I complain about a mother who loves her gay son enough to let him go and welcome him back when he chooses to return? I do wish key sex scenes were dramatized more for maximum emotional impact, and I'm sometimes bothered by the haphazard visual style. But then, all of these can only hold a candle to what is ultimately a great story that aims at a great gay love and succeeds. As a bonus, it's also subtly the journey of a gay man who's hurled by love into a dark descent, only to come back with dignity in tact. Inspiring.