Starring Nadine Lustre, Carlo Aquino & Marco Gumabao

Watch “Ulan” via Novo Cinema Book here:

Rating: 9/ 10   Highly Recommended

March 22, 2019 Driven by great performances and mesmerizing visuals, the result is a strange, yet hauntingly beautiful cinematic experience like no other.

Irene Villamor is currently one of the most in-demand directors today after creating hits after hits for Viva Films. She became popular for her works such as “Camp Sawi” (2016), “Meet Me In St. Gallen” (2018) and “Sid & Aya: Not A Love Story” (2018). But many people don’t know that back in 2013, she penned the quirky KimXi romance “Bakit Hindi Ka Crush Ng Crush mo?” for Star Cinema. Then, she co-directed the 2014 teen romcom “Relaks, It’s Just Pag-ibig” with Antoinette Jadaone. The story, even though it’s nothing new, was executed with pure tenderness and honesty. “Relaks” continues to be one of my most favorite local romance flicks of all time. I don’t know but there’s some kind of magic in this film.

Fast forward to 2019. Here’s Villamor with her latest work- this time featuring one-half of the phenomenal love team Jadine with some local myths and folklore thrown into the mix. The result: Irene Villamor’s “Ulan” is an oddball amongst her list of works.

The film follows the story of Maya, played by Nadine Lustre, a woman looking for the love of her life. She was inspired (eventually becoming obsessed) by the idea of finding love against all odds after witnessing a pair of tikbalangs getting married despite the heavens not agreeing with their union back, when she was young (because as we all know, according to old superstitions, whenever it is raining on a sunny day, a pair of tikbalangs are getting married). Fast forward to the present time, she feels like she has been cursed by the heavens above because every time something good is about to happen to her, it’s always raining. After being heartbroken from her friend Mark (AJ Muhlach) and Andrew (Marco Gumabao), she decided not to fall in love ever again. But one rainy day, she met Peter (Carlo Aquino) and realized that she’s already falling for him. Will the rain finally give her the chance to love and live happily ever after?

It’s quite difficult to gauge what the film was trying to point out at first because the story kept on switching from the past to the present every now and then. This of course affected the film’s flow at first, but the film’s solid writing and direction courtesy of Irene Villamor managed to save it from becoming a mess. Unlike most hugot-centric romance flicks nowadays, the film focuses on the theme of self-love or acceptance. Unlike her past works like  “Meet Me In St. Gallen” (2018) and “Sid & Aya: Not A Love Story” (2018) which followed women who don’t need anyone else in their lives to stand up, “Ulan” follows a hopeless romantic girl in the form of Maya who is obviously obsessed with the idea of being in love. The protagonist (along with the audiences) goes through a journey which allows her to reflect on the fact that maybe, just maybe, you don’t need someone in your life to complete you or to make you happy. Regarding its magical realism aspect, the film’s idea of inserting local superstition and folklore into the story was very odd and unusual. It’s mash-up of romance and fantasy doesn’t initially mix well, but it works eventually along the way. By the end of the film, the fantastical elements will determine how Maya’s story would conclude, evoking some J.A. Bayona and Guillermo del Toro kind-of vibes in it. Yes, “Ulan” has some charms of its own. It’s weird, dreamy, unconventional but nonetheless rewarding.

To their credit, the fantasy sequences of the film really looked good on screen. The costumes and designs of these mystical creatures, from the Mangingibig (tikbalang), the Humpty-Dumpty like beings from Maya’s imagination and that grief-stricken spirit Aning (played by Angeli Bayani) that brought the storm were all well-thought of and quite creative. The film’s minimal use of computer-generated effects, particularly with the tikbalangs and Aning added more authenticity to their scenes. The film also boasts some striking visuals from start to finish, thanks to award-winning master director of photography Neil Daza. Plus, the music (especially the soulful “Heto na naman” by Rice Lucido and Janine Teñoso’s cover of Rivermaya’s “Ulan”) added much to the film’s atmosphere. I especially loved that scene when young Maya met Aning  who brought the storm upon the country. It was so memorable because of its beautiful photography and execution.

AJ Muhlach and Marco Gumabao were both good in their respective roles, despite their short screen time. Elia Ilano was adorable as the younger version of Maya. Perla Bautista was also a great addition to the cast. It was fun to see Leo Martinez in the film. He provided most of the laughs in the movie as Maya’s interfering busybody boss. Carlo Aquino never fails to amaze us. Aside from his effective acting, he is always as charming as ever, and you can’t help but root for his character. And Nadine Lustre, despite the lack of a love team here, was very impressive. She was able to carry the film from start to finish with her superb acting and undeniable charm. Plus, she shares some nice chemistry with her co-star Carlo Aquino.

Irene Villamor’s “Ulan” is a welcome treat to audiences looking for a new flavor on their typical local flicks as it mixes magic realism with romance. Driven by solid direction, great performances and mesmerizing visuals, the result is a strange, yet hauntingly beautiful cinematic experience like no other.

Watch “Ulan” via Novo Cinema Book here: