Summer MMFF review: 'About Us But Not About Us' an acting showcase for Romnick, Elijah

Fred Hawson

Posted at Apr 10 2023 03:36 PM

Romnick Sarmenta and Elijah Canlas in 'About Us But Not About Us'
Romnick Sarmenta and Elijah Canlas in 'About Us But Not About Us'

Eric (Romnick Sarmenta) was a gay 40-something English Literature professor in UP. One day, he went to his favorite restaurant in BGC to meet up with his 22-year old student Lance (Elijah Canlas). Lance had once showed up during online classes with his face all bruised-up after being physically abused by his stepfather. To get away from harm, Eric had let Lance stay in his vacant condominium unit -- a kind act which had been the subject of unkind rumors.

Their lunch meeting started out pleasantly enough. However, when the conversation turned to matters pertaining to the recent death of Eric's partner Marcus, things began to turn tense. At the age of 45, Marcus was already hailed the "Nick Joaquin of his generation" for writing several excellent English-language novels, like "Song of a Burning Boy." His sudden demise from a drug overdose, presumably non-accidental, became the subject of speculations. 

Jun Robles Lana is responsible for the story, script and direction of this impressively crafty piece of cinema -- deceptively simple at the start, but increasingly complex as the layers are peeled apart. Since 1998, Lana had been the playwright, then later, the director of several modern classics. This new one joins the list of those he had both written and directed, including "Bwakaw" (2012), "Barbers Tales" (2013), and "Anino sa Likod ng Buwan" (2015).

This film was basically a two-hander affair, two actors sitting across each other at a single table, except for the occasional waiter taking orders and serving food. For a full hour and a half, we only see and hear Eric and Lance talking to each other. However, the topics of discussion became increasingly uncomfortable as major secrets were divulged one by one. As the final piece of the intricate plot fell into place, a chilling checkmate scenario is revealed. 

Current indie it-boy Elijah Canlas smoothly took us along the ride as his Lance slowly transitioned from being respectful to ruthless. Romnick Sarmenta had not been in a meaty lead role like this for so long, and he fearlessly took his Eric by the horns, coming up with a rich portrayal of remarkable restraint. 

Both actors had a showcase of nuanced acting as they each transformed into the mysterious Marcus, scenes which both of them nailed solidly. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."