Mga Munting Lihim (2012)
D: Jose Javier Reyes
S: Iza Calzado, Judy Ann Santos, Agot Isidro, Janice de Belen
When you have four amazing actresses playing four very despicable characters on film, it’s hard to look away from the carnage that is bound to happen. The women they play are classy, and Jose Javier Reyes keeps them that way. No hair pulling or cat scratching involved. Instead we are treated to an hour and a half of bickering, backstabbing, and a whole lot of “pakyus” from four women who are supposedly the best of friends.
Carla (Iza Calzado), a self-made career woman, is handed a box containing the diaries of her late best friend Mariel (Judy Ann Santos). She reads through them and unintentionally opens a can of worms, which ultimately rocks her world, including those of their remaining girl friends, Sandra (Agot Isidro) and Olive (Janice De Belen). The three are forcefully dragged down memory lane as they’re made to face all of the bitter truths of their so-called friendship.
Jose Javier Reyes’s Mga Munting Lihim is an odd independent film. It has a very accessible story that can be told without gimmicks, but it isn’t. The treatment is confused. On one hand, it desperately tries to give out an “indie” vibe, with rough editing and jarring color filter tricks that end up becoming a nuisance instead of serving the film. On the other, the treatment also has a very crisp side. The sets are too perfect, the props are too staged, and the blockings are too measured. These make the women look like second-rate Stepford wives and often detach the film from reality.
Still, we cannot deny that Reyes is a master of theatrics. He peppers the script with over-the-top confrontation scenes that are chock-full of profanities and insults, enough for the women to play with. Isidro makes the perfect social climbing bitch. Santos and Calzado are just superb when they’re made to put on their game faces. But the standout is definitely De Belen, who brings the house down. Unfortunately, these scenes are interspersed with long lulls composed of talking heads and dreary flashbacks.
Flaws aside, there is something about the film that is so honest. Its take on the dynamics of friendship often strikes a chord. It peels away the fluff and puts up a mirror towards its audience, revealing things that we already know but never dare to say out loud. It shows us the ugly side of friendships, the side which most friends avoid for the sake of keeping the friendship alive. This is the kind of truth that gives the film its balls and gives its audience a chance to reevaluate the relationships they have.