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When two men bite the same apple, love happens

March 10, 2010 1:43pm
Ben & Sam: 'Even in loneliness... there is hope'
In the movie, something happens in the bedroom. There is an apple. Someone takes a bite. Inside the bedroom are two young men, Ben and Sam. The two are hurtling towards each other, unable to resist the pull of love’s gravity. Soon their friendship will change to reveal a love that truly dares to speak its name.

Ben, convincingly played by Ray An Dulay, is a popular campus figure – team captain of the college basketball team, the one with a hot chick for a girlfriend. Sam (played by Jess Mendoza), on the other hand, is the new kid on the block – the transferee who prefers dance over sports. The two of them meet in a film class where they have a heated discussion and one of them gets drawn to the other.

Between the two leads, it’s clear that Dulay is the more experienced actor. He displays just the right kind of emotion required in his scenes. His portrayal of Ben as a young man who is not afraid to confront his inner demons and emotions is central to the success of the narrative. He is the one who discovers an epiphany in the movie after all.

Mendoza as Sam, in his first film role, may not be as convincing as Dulay but he plays the role with a certain vulnerability. In his manner of speech, Mendoza sounds and looks awkward with the way he delivers his lines in English. He is more at home and comfortable when his lines are spoken in the vernacular. Luckily for him, most of his lines in the movie are in Tagalog.

Sam, played by Jess Mendoza
Archie Del Mundo’s screenplay showcases the story’s contemporary setting. He gives the actors believable lines that we hear in everyday conversation. However, there are certain scenes in the movie when the dialogues are too long and drawn out, as though the characters are explaining what the movie is all about. This is the first screenplay he’s ever written, and Del Mundo displays a knack for his thoughtful placement of scenes that provide comic relief and help break the ice.

Shandii Bacolod, in his second assignment, is at the helm of this movie. His project triumphs because he has somehow managed to go against the grain and not succumb to the plague of really bad gay movies washed ashore in our cinemas. Ben and Sam is a carefully thought-out movie, very much unlike other gay indie films done by directors and producers who only want to showcase excessive sex and other carnal desires, designed for an audience that is only too willing to pay for such cinema.

This is a movie that attempts to shatter stereotypes that have become staples of recently produced indie gay movies. There are no screaming gay characters (not that there’s anything wrong with them, but they have been portrayed far too frequently and incorrectly), no seedy macho dancers, no rent-boy types, and no unabashed display of promiscuous sex. In fact the only sex that happens is the one between Ben and Sam. Bacolod’s approach in telling the story in a non-linear fashion is refreshing because it allowed him to play with the narrative and make the audience believe that everything will go well with the two leads. That is, before he drops the bomb that will break the hearts of film goers.

Rain Yamson’s cinematography insinuates with its almost glazed sheen that all is well in the world of Ben and Sam. It aptly complements the director’s story telling because the glossy feel betrays the lurking darkness that awaits the characters. The viewer is left stunned at the quick and dark turning of the plot, when the two lovers and everyone around them descend into a nightmare toward the end of the movie.

Ben, played by Ray An Dulay
Editing-wise, the movie can still be polished to make it more focused without ruining the essence of the movie. But I commend the way the director shattered my expectation of how I thought the movie would end.

Ben, after all, has an eccentric but accepting mother (played by Ana Abad Santos) who says of Sam, “I like that boy. There’s something special about him." Sam, on the other hand, had a father who deeply cares about him and knows about his sexuality and is open to the idea of meeting his son’s lover. Given the openness of their parents regarding their same-sex relationship, what else is there to stop Ben and Sam from having the time of their lives?

Here, the writer and director are successful in pushing the envelope in terms of how the plot develops in the context of gay indie movies. Producer Jazmin Trinidad-Tecson and co-producer Sean Lim, along with the team of Del Mundo and Bacolod, will take the viewers for a ride by making them fall in love and then leaving them stunned. – YA, GMANews.TV

Ben and Sam will have its regular screening on March 10 to 16, 2010 in these cinemas: Robinsons Galleria Ortigas, Isetann Recto, Cinema Theater Cebu, Remar Cubao, and Roben Manila

Photos courtesy of Imaginative Media Productions
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