They say that ignorance is, well, bliss. In Jerrold Tarog’s latest work, the audiences were taken up for a ride of experiencing bliss. This comes from not having a definite knowledge of what unfolds on screen.
Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado) is a premier actress who started at a young age. Her career was initially driven by passion and was later drove on by pressure coming from people around her. After nearly two decades in the industry, Ciego started feeling a sense of burning out. And so, in a career-changing move, Ciego took part in a film projected to rake in awards from different award-giving bodies. Employing the talent of her director Lexter Palao (Audie Gemora), Ciego works on a film that vividly resonated with her life. During the production of this film, an accident stuck her in coma.
Groundhog Day meets Misery
She wakes up in bed with legs paralyzed. Clueless about her situation, she then picks up on fragments of information that might help her see the bigger picture. It was not long before she descended into a Groundhog Day-ish situation of experiencing things on loop. While on repeat, the character grew a stronger connection to the audiences as she did not passively give in to the forces that are going against her- her caretaker, Lilybeth (Adrienne Guevarra) and Carlo (TJ Trinidad), her husband.
Isolated from the world- TV and phone lines cut off- Jane’s world revolved within the walls of their house. Her constant bickering with Lilybeth, while humorous at times, was unsettling to watch. One is a celebrity with a borderline diva-mindset and the other is an unflinching assistant- tensions are set to rise. This confined environment creates a great atmosphere for horror to set in. The explicit attempt at horror with the hands that grabs the wheel-bound character whenever she passes in one of the house’s corridors is not the real horror in this film. Instead, it lies in the predatory capability of men (and women) and how they can exploit a person to their last piece.
Tarog takes on a meta storytelling in Bliss as it presents a movie within a movie. It attempts to tackle several subjects and one that was entertaining to watch was his nudge at the conditions of working in the film industry itself. While it may be true that part of it is satirical, one cannot deny that the industry has been award-crazed and repetitive.
Calzado shines all throughout as a woman trapped in her own world. She did a great portrayal of a woman who was helpless yet still packs a bite or two. It truly is deserving of her award at the Osaka Film Festival. Adrienne Vergara was also a delight to watch as an unflinching nurse. She was terrifying and annoying at the same time. It is impossible not to love her. The women had the spotlight in the film but its male stars TJ Trinidad and Ian Veneracion still tried to have their moments. Sadly, they were not given much to work with.
A New Hope
Jerrold Tarog expresses his love for the craft in Bliss. His masterful direction amplified the simplicity of the movie’s plot. He did not go for horror tricks which would otherwise cheapen the sharpness of the story. The twists and revelations are great and eagle-eyed viewers would love the fact that clues leading up to it were there all along.
Bliss is a welcome relief in the current Philippine cinema landscape. In an industry full of repetitive plots and mediocre romcoms, a mind-boggling thriller with a smart plot, incredible acting, and tasteful production, the film brings in hope for the industry. It maybe not as huge as the historically-successful, Heneral Luna but Bliss is one that is worth supporting for. It is not everyday that local moviegoers get to experience the pleasure of watching a local film of this caliber.