March 22, 2019 – Diane Gundaya
As soon as the news broke that there will be a new film starring Nadine Lustre, fans went crazy—especially the Jadine fans. And, surprise, surprise—James Reid is out of the picture (but obviously not in Nadine’s life). This is the first movie of Nadine without James and with another leading man—but that seems to be the trend nowadays right? Stars are now more vocal about gaining acting experiences outside the confines and usual narratives of the most popular love teams of today.
Speaking of leading man, Nadine is teamed up with one of the favorite Filipino leads of this generation, Carlo Aquino. Let’s be honest: Nadine and Carlo looked like a weird tandem. They were like two different worlds and putting the two together in one space was quite of an intrigue.
If you are always on social media, it would be impossible for you not to see the dreamy and beguiling teasers of this film. From the photos of tikbalangs, a woman dressed in a wedding gown crying, to Nadine Lustre looking regal in her all white ensemble. This film really has something exciting to offer by just looking at the teasers—which is, I must say, quite effective to make me anticipate its release.
How it all started
A young Maya (Elia Ilano) looking up in the sky, trying to figure out why the sun is shining but at the same time, the rain is pouring.
Her question is immediately answered by her grandmother (Perla Bautista). She said that when it rains while the sun is out, two tikbalangs (which are mythical creatures said to be half human and half horse) are getting married and the sky is not in favor of their union. These creatures, according to the tale, aren’t supposed to fall in love. Thus, the sky is weeping to show its disapproval.
While the rain is pouring hard, Maya heads out to the park and encounters the creatures that her grandmother was talking about. She asks them why are they still pushing to marry each other even when the sky is opposing their love. The tikbalang eventually tells Maya that no force can ever be stronger than love, not even the rain can stop it.
Fast forward, Maya (Nadine Lustre), all grown up, ready to meet the love of her life after how many years. It was raining hard on her way to his house which pretty much messes up her look. Upon arriving, she was greeted by him and soon reveals that he already has a wife and a child. What’s worst is that the wife even asked her why she looked so stressed. She goes home, heartbroken, and blames all her misfortunes to the rain.
Not so typical
After that disappointing encounter, Maya seeks the comfort of her gay best friend Topi (Josef Elizalde). He is that type of friend who will make you laugh after every cry and tell you harsh yet true comments to make your life better. Maya swore that she will never fall in love again.
Maya, bitter in love, meets this guy named Andrew (Marco Gumabao) from a party where her friend Topi, supplied one of his creations. Andrew, who has the typical Prince Charming looks and attitude, showers Maya with sweet words which eventually made her fall in love again. She was so invested in their so called “fairytale love story” that she even tried to recreate that magical moment usually seen in movies, where the girl and the boy kiss under the rain. She hoped so hard for the rain to come, instead, an alluring girl came into the picture and into their relationship.
This is where the story starts to slowly get its shape. It took a while for the movie to take flight but its good because Irene Villamor really took her time to lay all the pieces of the puzzle before slowly putting it all together–especially that it is not your typical rom-com movie, with that added a touch of magic realism in it.
Speaking of magic realism, this is such a big leap made by Villamor to incorporate such concept in the Filipino film setting. The narrative may seem complex since it jumps back and forth from past to present, but this is what made the film more interesting. It really played an effective role in showing the progress of Maya’s growth—not only physically but also mentally.
Maya—Then and Now
The film shows us how Maya transitioned from this little girl who was so invested in stories and beliefs that her grandmother would tell her, to this confused grown up Maya who is still testing the waters of reality, feeling like everything’s quite new to her.
This is what I love the most about the film—how it showed the character evolve and realize certain things.
The young Maya, sheltered and blessed with her grandmother’s unwavering love grew up living within the worlds that she created based from her grandmother’s stories and had a hard time fitting in with the other kids because they somehow could not understand her.
The film clearly showed how Maya’s vivid imaginations come to life. Her imagination is so wild that she even turned her classmates into eggs and cracked them when she was angry at them for teasing her.
Fast forward to grown up Maya, who was left with her aunt and uncle (Andrea Del Rosario and William Martinez) after her grandmother’s passing. She was now bombarded with a lot of things like how her uncle always tells her to leave her job because the pay is not good and she doesn’t have any benefits. Some days, her uncle asks her when she will ever have a boyfriend because she’s not getting any younger and such. These practical and life related questions seems so hard for Maya to answer because she was not used to this kind of reality.
Also, her boss often tells Maya that she needs to up her sexual desire and libido in order to write good erotic stories because that is what sells nowadays—which shows how stories are often driven by men and their male gazes.
One rainy day, Maya was walking along the road, struggling because she was holding several things for the story that she is currently working on and the rain was pouring while the wind was blowing hard. This is where she meets Peter (Carlo Aquino)—a simple yet mysterious guy who happens to have a heart of gold and cares so much about the welfare of others—especially the children. Maya and Peter becomes close to each other and teaches each other, a thing or two, amidst how life played with them.
The Magical World of ‘Ulan’
“Ulan” is such a compelling story that shows us different types of love, one may encounter in his or her lifetime: forbidden love, one great love, first love, the one that got away love, and how the rain played an essential role in between her encounter with these types of love.
Irene Villamor and Neil Daza’s artistry combined really created such a masterpiece. The production design was on point and it really set the mood and tone of the film—which is in this case, really challenging because it deals with both the past and the present with a touch of magical realism in it. I appreciate the path they took with this film—which was, in Robert Frost’s words, “the road not taken” by other Filipino filmmakers.
To be honest, it is hard to inject magic realism in film because it is usually misunderstood by its viewers since it weaves fantasy and myth into everyday life. But somehow, this film managed to do good with it.
Also, surprisingly, Nadine and Carlo’s chemistry worked out—everything felt genuine and natural between the two.
At the end of the day, we are all Maya.
We once believed that there are happy endings just like in fairytales and storybooks that was handed and shown to us when we were little. And as we grew up, life, bit by bit, hits us with these realities and truths which we never saw coming.
This film shows us how Maya evolve and react towards every encounter of the different types of love that she opened herself up to.
Yes, love may break us and leave us shattered and helpless, but it is also love, which may turn our sorrow into happiness and make us feel complete and alive again.
Just like the rain, sometimes, it’s such a pain in the ass, it destroys homes and even takes away lives, but we must remember, that it can also sustain life and that it has the power to end drought.
It also promises us a fresh start—a new beginning, a glimpse of hope, that after every rain, when everything dries up, we can start again.
This film may seem odd and strange, but there is something really magical and powerful that lies beneath it—which is really hard to explain but I will leave you with a line from Rivermaya’s song—“Sinong di mababaliw sa Ulan?”
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