Movie Review: ‘Bliss’ (2017)

Review by lou.

DISCLAIMER: Before you head into this review, make sure first that you have watched the film as there may be some spoilers ahead, in which some statements may give out important plot points.

Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado), a successful actress, produces her own film to gain respect from the industry. During the film production, she is involved in a terrible accident that leaves her disabled. She is left in her house under the care and supervision of her husband, Carlo (TJ Trinidad) and a cruel, unusual nurse named Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara). As days go by, she descends into insanity as she experiences horrors and madness while being trapped in her own home.

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Bliss finds Jerrold Tarog climaxing in his career as he connects with something that we didn’t know he had in him – a prodigious ambition that steadily grows in fury. Though it’s quite vague yet still apparent, the topics that he goes over in it feel rather familiar to his line of work. He expresses something so personal in searing brutality without forgiving his own harshness, and in there, he leaves nothing for us to not see and ponder on. It’s truly an inspired work from the Heneral Luna helmer in the form of a psychological thriller that offers more than you’d think it could, and with it, you’d be blown away to see what this director really is capable of other than creating a beloved historical epic. He borrows elements from renowned filmmakers, and uses a conceptual pen that allows him to push his limits in storytelling – showing us that he is extremely more than able in bringing to life a narrative that is deemed rare in this time and age of Philippine cinema, whose execution and writing themselves become his promise of greater things that are about to come.

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Trapping us in a nightmare which he conceives through Iza Calzado’s Jane, he exposes what really goes on in the film industry through a dark window that lets us step into the tormented soul of a star. There, we find out the abuse and pressures that shape her up to be who she is, in a realm where the atmosphere is cold and menacing, and the people that surround us lets us realize that some dreams can transform into something so hellish and cruel. Bliss then, turns out to be a harrowing tale of obsession, of exploitation and victimization that is constructed with a depth – padded with shock-inducing layers that will rip your mind apart, and even have you going mad. Viscerally depicted by Calzado that gets us just as confused and horrified as she is in a sublime performance that would change your perception on how you see the actress, she brings forth a sense of uncanny honesty in her weary portrayal that is marked with memorability. All of this further grounds everything in a dreamy and dark cloud where realism lies still, and nightmares take over as the mind-blowing psychology behind her character Jane Ciego is slit open, and never sealed.

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Throughout its course, we face different characters, or people rather, that, look much like greedy monsters to be afraid of, that dwell in reality, with their horrid manipulation as the cause. From there, it creates a tangled web of complexities that pins you to your seat, and makes you sit through fragments of her life whose truth she had not known about. They subject us to acts that feel repulsive in nature; oppressing even our very souls. Reaching the bottom of the surface, we find out the despicable ugliness in Jane’s superficial stardom, but as we figure out that some threads in its narrative are just so well connected that it’s stunning, we are opened up to another character whose story delves much deeper into the already dark tunnel that we explore. Just when you thought that you had it all figured out, it tricks your intelligence by a cunning revelation that will really mess you up inside and out.

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Superbly played by Adrienne Vergara in a role that would instantly haunt us in our sleep, her character Lilibeth is an absolute creep locked in a prison of her own past. Going for more moments that would leave you breathless and have you blown away, Tarog perfectly utilizes Vergara in such a way that would either make Calzado look like a supporting character, or some other thing that relates to the word “parallel”. She stands out to have a relevance in the story – in Jane’s life that is enlarged for us to scrutinize and understand that, ultimately brings us to the edge, defying all of what we’d expect. Completely, Bliss indulges in taking various unpredictable directions that would make Christopher Nolan proud, but the Filipino audience speechless. The sounds heard, that ring in the ears with a haunting resonance further justifies and inventively displays Tarog’s panache for intricacy in his films as he brings out Bliss‘ beauty that is seen even in the faintest of details – demanding intense concentration; an exercise that lets out its thrills.

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There’s a song played over and over, and in a magnificent reveal of its immense capabilities, the film’s ending uncovers the tune’s significance to the narrative in its remarkably twisted final seconds that would go on to be something to talk about non-stop as its entirety. Jerrold Tarog’s filmmaking here is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best that he has to boast, and it flares up in every second that exhilarates by use of a mind that is so depraved and rigorous that, saying “WTF” repeatedly just won’t be enough. Horror in the mold of jolting scares is definitely something that it strays away from, but that doesn’t validate its gloomy being as ineffective. The true horror occurs in your mind once you get up from your seat, and walk towards the exit; lingering, and tingling the senses.

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It is in those very seconds where you feel alone with it, and it is there where you’ll get terrified by what it has left you with – shards of its unrelenting bravado that will get in your eyes. Bliss is a maniacal cinematic experience that creeps, and burns through even in the farthest corners of the mind; an intelligent, sultry, ground-breaking Filipino thriller that will screw you over, and over again. Surprisingly enough, it’s yet another enormous display of brilliance which signifies that we can still get something deeply creative out of Philippine cinema – that we can still see films that give more other than mere entertainment. For that, it winds up becoming one of the finest Filipino films in years, and perhaps an unforgettable, controversial masterpiece in Tarog’s ever-growing filmography.

Rating:

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  • Bliss is now showing in Philippine cinemas. Rated R-18 without cuts.

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