Doing a marathon for Cinemalaya 2019 was definitely a challenge. There was just so much great choices and screenings happening simultaneously that it gets hard to pick which one to watch next. Thanks to CCP, who granted me a media pass to cover the screenings, I had the unique opportunity to sit through any screening and I found myself crammed with the rest of the crowd at the Tanghalang Jose Batute to see why Belle Douleur was a Beautiful Pain.
Synopsis: After the death of her mother, 45-year-old Liz (Mylene Dizon) is at odds about dealing with her grief and loneliness. Along comes Josh (Kit Thompson), antique dealer in his twenties who takes a liking to her and the pair embark on an exciting and intense relationship.
While Belle Douleur was sold on the idea of a May-December romance, Belle Douleur didn’t simply focus on this aspect and delivered on so much more than what was promised.
What really impressed me about this film was its natural flow, from the time it established the strong chemistry between lead stars Mylene Dizon and Kit Thompson, their naturally awkward “courtship”, their openness to sharing their family background and the stories that went along with it. It was a relationship from the beginning even though the main clincher was the hookups.
I liked the mix of serious and playful in their approach, appealing to millenials and non-millenials alike. Kudos to the scriptwriters for not being overly preachy about their core message and simply telling the story in the most relatable way possible. For this, I also have to give credit to the support cast, especially Jenny Jamora and Marlon Rivera who played Liz’s besties Lauren and Marco, who gave a unique energy to the film with their real talk.
The intimate scenes were beautifully shot. While some would choose to tittilate with excessive nudity, audiences understand the deeper connection between the characters with each sexual encounter because apart from these, the film shows audiences a glimpse into the other aspects of their relationship. Josh is proud to be with Liz and she is accepted by his friends with no issue about her age. Liz’s friends also root for Josh, whom they see as a good thing to get her mind off her miseries.
While there were hints of conflict in the relationship, it felt organic. It wasn’t really about the age gap but rather the difference in their personalities. The age was more of an issue with Liz more than Josh and you have to really root for the guy. He was, in a lot of sense, more mature than Liz was when it comes to addressing their relationship. He was serious about her and was even willing to reshape his future for her. During their time together, I loved that they made each other happy. Mylene Dizon, in particular perfectly showed off her acting chops with the depth of her portrayal. She made audiences fee what she felt every single scene even without the need for dialogue — anguish, fear, happiness, disgust, helplessness. Truly a mark of a seasoned actress.
In this sense, Belle Douleur manages to hook audiences into its main message. Love wasn’t perfect. And sometimes, you have to have the courage to make sacrifices for the one you love. Belle Douleur was a beautiful journey, and it was, true to its title, a beautiful pain.
By its end, audiences understand this title completely and that’s the mark of a film’s success. Congratulations to Quantum Films and iWant for producing this heartwarming, heartwrenching Cinemalaya entry. And a big bravo to director Joji Villanueva Alonso, whose first time in directing a full-length film is nothing short of brilliant.
Belle Douleur is still playing at the CCP, select Ayala Theaters and Vista Malls nationwide throughout the duration of Cinemalaya 2019 from August 2-13. Make sure you don’t miss it.