"Tuhog" presents us with an unusual situation. A major bus accident along Commonwealth Avenue (but of course!) freakishly lanced together the bodies of three random people (hence the literal title). As their doctors try to save their lives, we get acquainted with each of these three victims and what led them to be on the bus on that fateful day.
Tonio (Leo Martinez) is a recently retired employee whose eccentricities are getting on the nerves of his wife (Carla Martinez) and his disrespectful children. Fortunately, he still gets his support from his group of friends with whom he plays poker. One day, he suddenly decides to invest his entire retirement pay to build up his own dream bakery, perfecting his own special pan de sal.
Fiesta (Eugene Domingo) leads a life not as happy as her name would seem to imply. She is a tough-as-nails bus conductor, having a reputation as a terror among the drivers. But behind the tough exterior, she has a big problem dealing with her alcoholic father (Noel Trinidad). When the young, newly hired bus driver Nato (Jake Cuenca) signifies his love for her, she did not know what hit her.
Caloy (Enchong Dee) is a student who is in a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend Angel (Empress Schuck), now working in Dumaguete. While he eagerly awaits the semestral break when they would reunite and finally lose their virginity together (in his own words), he could hardly keep his jealous thoughts nor his raging libido in check.
The script (by Jinky Laurel and director Veronica Velasco) was quite interesting the way they weaved the stories together with those intersecting situations told from three different points of view. The editing is critical in a film like this, and I thought it was done pretty well.
There were some parts during the individual stories which tended to be repetitive, could have been shortened a little to pick up some pace.
Medical accuracy could be shaky. They did try to explain some issues, albeit in highly simplified terms. In reality though, assuming the victims actually survived and could still talk after a terrible accident like that, they should have been immediately rushed to a better-equipped tertiary medical facility. But I'd give them a pass for artistic license in this aspect.
I was a bit bothered by the mystical beggar boy (Maliksi Morales), who also connected the three main characters. What did his presence really mean to say? I guess that is one of those things which the audience can think and discuss about after watching the film.
The actors were all quite into their characters. Leo Martinez is right in his comedic element as he deals with senior citizen issues. Enchong Dee tackles a more daring role here with some pretty risqué bed-shaking scenes. Jake Cuenca does well in his conflicted character, but his chemistry with Eugene is tenuous at best. Noel Trinidad's portrayal is spot on and moving, as usual for this dependable actor. I enjoyed the cameos of PETA actors Vincent de Jesus (as bus company operator) and especially Meann Espinosa (as a nutty professor).
But the real center of the movie belongs to Ms. Eugene Domingo. She holds the whole story together. Her performance as Fiesta ran the gamut of emotions, from simple girlish joy to complicated mental torment. You will take her seriously here. Black comedy becomes her.
Overall, this is a different kind of Filipino movie that tries something innovative. The material is not common nor commercial, especially for a Star Cinema production. Fortunately, the featured stars could really perk up interest among viewers. The story was carefully thought out and plotted. The execution by the director was meticulous which was impressive for a complex script like this one. Filipinos should support local films like this. Highly recommended! 8/10.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."