By Brontë H. Lacsamana, reporter
Nanahimik by Gabi
Directed by Shugo Praico
MTRCB rating: R-13
THE DILEMMA of closing your eyes and being silent or speaking out injustice is something we all struggle with in life. In this suspense thriller, protagonist Me-Ann must contend with it as she uncovers layers of lies and traumatic truths.
Nanahimik Ang Gabi (which translates to “A Silent Night”) was created by writer-director Shugo Praico and co-produced by Philip King and Lino Cayetano through production company Rein Entertainment. They previously created crime drama Bagman in 2019, which also explored themes of injustice, impunity and twisted love.
This captivating, disturbing film centers on Heaven Peralejo, who delivers a stunning performance as Me-Ann.
She is introduced as a sweet, seemingly naïve lover who is taken to the middle of nowhere by her Sugar Daddy Chief, played by Ian Veneracion. She then does a great job playing confused and scared as the romantic getaway quickly goes awry and horrific injustices are revealed.
Although Nadine Luster received the MMFF Best Actress award for “Deleter,” it would be foolish to dismiss Ms. Peralejo’s visceral twist in “Nanahimik Ang Gabi,” which takes her from sexy, sensual, and naïvely stubborn to desperate, flawed, and ultimately heroic suffices.
Known as a heartthrob in his other works, Mr. Veneracion also begins predictably, playing a handsome cop who engages in a torrid extramarital affair. As darkness falls and we learn Chief’s secrets to a culture of corruption and violence, his inner complex monster steals the show and earns him a Best Actor award.
Rounding out the powerful trio is Mon Confiado’s performance as Soliman, the film’s intimidating intruder and supposedly insane antagonist. It plays out as expected – a show of Mr. Confiado’s talent and dedication as a character steeped in suffering and grief, for which he won Best Supporting Actor.
The film is notable for exposing Soliman’s motivation to terrorize the couple and Me-Ann’s sympathy for him clashing with Chief’s instinct to eliminate the threat.
But before that, the adept handling of the technical side by director Praico and his crew is shown, with camera and set design creating atmospheric moments of foreboding. The beautiful house is the setting for a thriller that’s always twisted eerily as Me-Ann wanders the hallways filled with ominous red-and-black colored abstract art or snaps selfies in spacious rooms with maggots squirming deep in the sink.
The violent scenes are then dynamically shot and choreographed as if placing the viewer in the same stressful scenario as the characters. However, a film that presents grueling situations for its characters shouldn’t be so grueling for the audience.
The downside of this film is that it lacks brevity. Mr. Veneracion and Mr. Confiado, while excellent in their roles, are given a script that requires too much monologue and monologue, which can tire the viewer. And the pacing itself can still be improved upon, being understandably slow at first as the catalyzing events have not yet begun, and extremely frenetic in the middle as revelation after revelation is heaped upon us.
Tighter editing could have cut the two-hour, 10-minute film to a more reasonable running time. If the storytelling had been more concise, it could have done more justice to the promising overall concept.