It's the story of a gay 15-year old and the random events that happen in his life. That's all there is to it. A falling out of friendship after drunken sex; coming out to another friend; living with a compassionate but broken mother; reaching out to an absentee father; and the arrival of a hunk uncle. The plots don't exactly bleed into one another in a satisfying, cause-and-effect, or thematic fashion. Collectively, they paint a portrait of a coming of age that is incoherent, and maybe that's the point.
Antonio spends a lot of time asking questions in his head. (We hear them as voice-overs.) It's an existential journey that ends in senseless tragedy -- where else? (The ending is a gay twist on the classic Insiang.) Maybe, the movie is saying, the meaning of life -- and of being gay -- is that it doesn't mean anything. It's a strong statement in our age of self-importance, when, in an increasingly liberated environment, we make so much fuss about our sexuality.
The movie's main fault is that it doesn't really make us care about any of this. Antonio is a walking empty shell. None of what he does, or what happens to him, seems to have any gravity. What keeps us watching is not that he's interesting, but that the occurances are familiar to us as gay men who've been there before or at least heard stories about it. Sure, I giggled at the memory of wearing somebody's used underwear on my face, but what was so special about that scenario, really? I got tired of scenes unfolding without distinctiveness or consequence. I stayed on my seat mainly because I already know uberstud Josh Ivan Morales will eventually flash his hefty manhood and that he will finally do it with cute newcomer Kenjie Garcia. It was just a matter of when.
Lihim was created by the same team as last year's sensational Ang Lalake Sa Parola, but it lacks that film's central provocative idea and the dirty allure of exploitative filmmaking. Lihim takes a more serious (read: dry) approach (just look at mother Shamaine Buencamino's serious acting), but doesn't have the serious meat with which to fill it. It's unremarkable cinema that gets by on expectation.