Aga Muhlach's Nuuk Is A Chilling Love Story
The capital of Greenland is mostly covered in ice and receives sunlight only four hours a day, making it the ideal setting for Nuuk, a chilling, suspenseful, out-of-the-box love story.
Unlike other Filipino films that employ scenic overseas locations as come-ons to watch a melodramatic romance, Nuuk does the opposite. The film, instead, uses romance as a device to mirror startling possibilities in everyday life, as well as a starting point for an unpleasant turn of events.
Even if everything is so fascinatingly beautiful and mysterious, with breathtaking views of Greenland’s fjord systems and sprawling landscapes covered in snow, the film gives the impression that something sinister is coming.
It feels strange—a fear of the unknown mixed with a sense of urgency—but the film does not reek of despair throughout. It beguiles you the way any postcard love story would, with two interesting characters at its center.
Mark Alvarez (Aga Muhlach) and Elaisa Svendsen (Alice Dixson) are two Filipinos who meet in Nuuk, supposedly by accident. Elaisa is still grieving over the death of her husband and asks Mark for medication her shrink won't prescribe. One favor leads to another and, in true Filipino fashion, they become friends, because who else would Filipinos trust for favors or to cook adobo for them? Cut to: friends who become lovers, a slow-burning romance.
While hospitality, cheesy romantic sequences, and adobo are three very Filipino things that were deftly inserted into Nuuk’s plot, they're also the closest things to Filipino cliches that you will find in this film.
This film debunks misconceptions about Filipino migrants and life overseas that people may have picked up and accepted as truth from movies, the media, and hearsay.
Nuuk tells us that not all Filipinos who have established themselves in a foreign country are swimming in luxury and drowning in bliss. Take Elaisa: a drug-dependent, grieving widow who has yet to locate and fix ties with her only son, Karl. And although one gets the impression that Elaisa is loaded, with enough assets to live off for the rest of her years and to start anew, she lives modestly in a simple home and appears to be struggling in her everyday life.
The film also points out that not all Filipinos who marry foreigners do so in exchange for money or convenience. It crushes the mail-order bride mentality and the idea that Filipinos who have migrated to another country have it easy. As you will see, life in Nuuk for Elaisa isn't easy at all, and it wasn't easy even when her husband was still alive. Mark, seemingly, was her saving grace, her new lease on life.
Unlike other travel-oriented movies where the scenery easily overshadows the story, Nuuk's best trait is the storytelling. With twists you may or may not expect and turns that are hardly seen in local cinema, it leaves you consistently hungry for the next scene, eager for the mystery to unfold.
You know something bad is bound to happen though you can’t quite put your finger yet on what it is. And while you know it will be unpleasant, you can't wait for the worst to take place.
The beauty of this film lies not only in the cinematic flair poured into every frame. The most beautiful thing about it is its no holds barred presentation of issues that people are uncomfortable talking about, especially in mainstream Filipino cinema: solitude, loneliness, grief, isolation, depression, substance abuse, and mental illness.
Dixson is a natural at playing a middle-aged, miserable woman who finds hope in the company of a new man. The role fits her to a T and maximizes her mettle as an actress.
Muhlach, on the other hand, is charming in most scenes, reminding you of the ideal leading man he has always been. But as the story progresses, he proves that he is so much more than that.
In Nuuk, Muhlach breaks out of the mold he has always been known for—that of a perfect guy any man or woman would want to bring home to their mother—and showcases his versatility as an actor. This is not the first time he has stepped out of his comfort zone and shone with a quiet, understated intensity in a challenging role, but this may be his most laudable effort, to date. Muhlach proves that he can find roles that suit him at his prime and age gracefully in an unforgiving movie industry.
The plot, admittedly, isn't perfect and might even seem predictable. Yet it raises questions, rouses your curiosity, and makes you want to dig deeper.
Modesty aside, it didn't take me too long to piece things together, figure out the connection between the main characters, and formulate a fair assumption of what might happen next. These, however, did not ruin my film viewing experience; they even intensified my appetite for the entire mystery to unravel. Every gripping moment of the well-executed psychological thriller was worth the wait.
Nuuk opens in cinemas today, November 6.