Aberya (Philippines, 2012)
Are our future’s already written or do we have some control over fate? This universal mystery is the basic question that Christian Linaban tries to answer in his indie feature Aberya. Adapted from the director’s own graphic novel, Aberya takes place in the far quieter and less crowded island of Cebu, the Queen City of the South, and tells the story of four people each on their own quest. The film’s heady themes though belie its comedic elements and eye-popping visual effects that transport us backwards and forwards in time, inside someone’s memories, and traveling to various locations.
The first of our four protagonists in the film is Lourd (Will Devaughn), a Filipino-American, who has returned to Cebu to revel in his fame as an up-and-coming boxer and prepare for a possible bout with the country’s own Muhammad Ali, Manny Pacquiao. Lourd is dripping with arrogance as he beds several women and then, breaking the fourth wall, comments on them to us. The character’s narcissism though is fascinating to watch, not least of all because of his commentary but because one can tell from the first time we meet him that this dime-store lothario’s quest to find a wife is going to blow up in his face. Crossing Lourd’s path is nun-turned-escort Angel (Mercedes Cabral), who beds evil men to punish them. She is the most damaged of all of Linaban’s characters having never known any happiness in her life and having her only salvation, the nunnery she was staying at, taken away from best online casino her by a rape that infected her with HIV. Cabral plays her as neither hero nor victim. She is, liker her namesake, an avenging angel who sadly is never given any resolution at the end, forever doomed to suffer alone and punish the scumbags of the earth. The crux of the story, though, is the love story between the Manson-esque Mike (Nicholas Varela) and the ethereal Eden (Iwa Moto), two people who are so obviously in love, only to be kept apart by Mike’s affair with psychotropic drugs. Their back and forth romance is the most painful and hilarious to watch. Stuck on repeat Mike is perpetually going back and forth to events in search of a future that he can be happy with.
Linaban’s greatest strength in Aberya is his inventive visual style. Working from his graphic novel, Linaban has created a film that exhibits all the qualities of that medium. It’s drenched with vibrant color and every cut feels like a new panel is being revealed to us. It’s a shame to say then that the film falls short of being a masterpiece because many of the threads the film weaves are left dangling in the air. Due to the film’s source material, it”s possible that we might get a chance to revisit these characters lives, but as it stands now, Aberya is a flawed film, a case of style outshining substance.