Love, Lorna

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Actress Shamaine Buencamino in the film’s official poster

Actress Shamaine Buencamino in the film’s official poster

There were very few films (count: two) that I caught off Cinema One Originals this year, also because ticket prices were steeper than Cinemalaya. The ones I watched though were thankfully worth seeing, reconsiderations as these were of “kawomenan” in local film—in the love story even. That both had the sense of humor and absurdity that the Pinay lives within a country where such a premium is put on romance, was a bonus.

It would be easy to talk about That Thing Called Tadhana (written and directed by Antoinette Jadaone) and Lorna (written and directed by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo) in one breath, but that would be an injustice to both films.

So invoking seniority, this is about the daring that was Lorna, with its sex and romance, the comic pressures of love, and the possibilities for creating our truths no matter age.

It was all that and magic.


Not about the search for love
I cringe at the every review that said this movie was about a 60-year-old woman’s search for love.

Because it wasn’t. There was no sense here that “the search” was a preoccupation. In fact there was a very clear sense here of how Lorna (Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino) was fine. She was financially and emotionally independent. She ate what she wished, watched what she wanted, did what she might. She exercised and drank and smoked, bought books and shopped for clothes, read every romance novel.

She was free.

This was what Lorna was about. Framing her story in merely the search for love reveals sometimes the frame itself is a trap. There was an inability to imagine this a story worth telling beyond love. It was an inadvertent critique: what else could this be about given a 60-year-old single woman?

Well Lorna proves there’s plenty, and it is a complex web of living and growing old in this country as woman, especially when she is neither apologetic about the life she lives, nor is she victimized or oppressed. Not once did it seem like Lorna was being discriminated against for her age, nor that she was being victimized by the fact that she was alone. That is the power of this film: it refused to frame its character in the notions that surround being single and 60 in this context.

Instead it gave Lorna all the words she needed, the swing in her hips and the outfits for it too, the fantasies to live vicariously through. And then it let her deal with reality as intelligently as she could, nervous breakdowns included. It was about as real as it gets for all of us, no matter what age, in love and otherwise.

The humor and absurd
She laughs boisterously and with abandon. Flirts every chance she gets. Exchanges banter with old tried tested friendships and strangers. Has a grumbling nervous stomach. Enjoys the silence in the bathroom as she takes a poop.

She shoots a gun. Smokes some grass and gets high. Gets drunk on wine. Cries over a dead cat. Tries to get a signal on her cellphone by staying near the x-marks on her sliding door. Has a man abandon her. Has a man flirt with her. Has a man color her hair. Have sex.

Lorna’s world is one that is humorous because it is so real, and captures how absurd our everydays actually are. The only reason this humor would be seen as problematic is if one does not, cannot, imagine how it is such a fundamental part of being educated middle class woman here. Where the pressures are multiple, no matter financial mobility; love remains difficult no matter intelligence; libog is not spoken of no matter the words we have. Lorna is all these, and in this film she just is.

What is humorous about her is her normalcy. She is no crazy person, no matter that she speaks to her cat, no matter that she believed in love online. No matter that she might get lost in the fiction that she reads and actually believe that love is about guns at the ready and shooting from the hip, a defensive reflex more than anything else.

It’s not because Lorna is the age she is. It’s because she is Pinay woman, also mirroring two friends oppressed in their marriages, coping in their particular ways.

Lorna is free of a relationship, but is open to its making and undoing. She also makes the choice to walk away. There are no pitiful moments of running after the man here. There is no desperation.

One can think that the absurdity and humor here are precisely about desperation and loneliness. But that would be to choose to see this as the sad plight of being woman, which this film seems to know is the trap it would rather not fall into.

Empowerment via armament
The driving force of this film is Centenera-Buencamino as Lorna, who ran with the character, shifting from the fantastic to the real, the humorous to the painful, with such certainty and brevity.

With the actress, there is no wasted moment in this movie, nothing that feels out of sync or out of place as far as telling Lorna’s story is concerned. Every glint in her eye, each smile on her lips, every puff of smoke, each and every word create Lorna into the every Pinay we all should know is valuable to see in local film.

Because hers is a confidence that is about the weight in her step, her self-assurance comes from many things other than being attached to a man. Sure her pains are real, her loneliness too. But these do not define her as they are the layer that make her complex. And real.

That we frame her otherwise is to fail to hear her roar.

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1 Comment

  1. Renato Mascardo on

    Another trenchant and totally entertaining essay written by my favorite columnist in the Manila Times Online website. Reading the captivating article without a by-line was intriguing. Tracing the links backward revealed the identity of the author that I read regularly on the front page, which just proves that literary style, humor and incisiveness can’t hide behind an anonymous cinematic critique. Keep those delightful lines flowing, Ms. Santiago.