Review: Nuel Naval's A SECRET AFFAIR

Nuel Naval's A Secret Affair makes a lot of noise and drama about nothing. The story revolves around acts of infidelity committed by Anton (Derek Ramsey) against his fiancée Raffy (Anne Curtis) with Sam (Andi Eigenmann), Raffy's friend and sorority sister. In fairness to Anton, most of his indiscretions with Sam were committed either outside the relationship, such as before he and Raffy met or during that short cool-off period after Raffy withdrew from their wedding, or at the risk of those indiscretions being exposed by obsessive Sam, who will do everything to snatch Anton away from Raffy. The film is essentially a love triangle involving the most naïve, most immature, and most psychotic of characters, made somewhat palatable by commercial film gloss and occasional spurts of wit and humor.

Naval does a good job staggering the affair, prolonging the trite story with needless scenes and lazy expositions. From the opening love song that immediately segues to a weepy engagement proposal to the lukewarm ending, the television director eagerly jumps from one style to another, showcasing techniques that more often than not do not work but at least keep the film from being absolutely uneventful.

A Secret Affair expectedly peddles sex and sensuality, what with its overly attractive leads donning near-nothings copulating extravagantly whenever and wherever. Unfortunately, the film's concept of eroticism is too intertwined with the glamor involved in the near-perfect faces and physiques of its stars to be grounded in reality. All it offers is an erstwhile fantasy, of being involved, at least vicariously through the actions of the films' characters, in these swoony romances and raunchy flings.

Evidently, Naval's characters are all irritating spoiled brats, living inside a bubble of their own doing, communicating only with each other through tweets and status updates, and enjoying the very fact that their every action is being watched by everyone outside their exclusive bubble. While the description seems to match a lot of celebrities whose private affairs are now readily available because of social media, Naval only scrapes the surface of such disgusting but prevalent culture, insisting on displaying caricatures for laughs and thrills instead of delving deeper.

Without a doubt, A Secret Affair owes its existence to the commercial success of Ruel Bayani's No Other Woman (2001), also starring Ramsey and Curtis who find themselves intertwined in an illicit relationship. Insisting on the unwieldy mix of drama and comedy that made Bayani's film somewhat memorable, screenwriter Mel Mendoza-del Rosario peppers the film with lines, spoken with overreaching conviction by supposed members of Manila's upper crust, that stray past the borders of good taste and proper conversational etiquette. The film's techniques are repetitive and lowbrow, which are unfortunately the right elements of a true box office hit in the Philippines.

Sadly, A Secret Affair, even with Naval's dynamic treatment which criss-crosses from serious to funny and back, Ramsey, Curtis and Eigenmann's more or less convincing acting, and Mendoza-del Rosario's forced witticism, is still gratingly dull. Its bare plot essentially revolves around the stupidity of people, but Naval still insists on conjuring obvious lessons on life and marriage out of it. It is as if morality is an afterthought by the filmmakers, who are quick to exploit the very real problem of infidelity for a quick buck.

(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)
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