At first blush it may seem odd to consider Filipino-Australian actress Ann Curtis-Smith as the older woman in the portrayal of a romantic pairing, but then one remembers that she is aged 34 and already married to Erwan Heusaff since 2017. Furthermore, despite her still-bubbly persona she is a full decade older than Marco Gumabao, her 24-year-old costar in the “erotic romance” drama “Just a Stranger” from Viva Films. Premiering early this week, the film is the latest notable “older woman-younger man relationship” story to come out this year, following two Cinemalaya 2019 entries “Malamaya” and “Belle Doleur.” But “Just a Stranger” delivers a unique standout experience from the rest.
But first, the movie could be forgiven for following a formulaic start in this story genre. The two would-be lovers of disparate ages meet in an exotic location (in the Filipino sense at least, given they are in Lisbon, Portugal). Following an awkward meeting and more awkward interactions, guy and gal wind up in the sack for what they assume to be a sole freebie. But then their tryst evolves into something approaching a relationship; and when their affair starts interfering with their separate lives outside of it, drama ensues.
Where “Just a Stranger” comes into its own is by its treatment of the characters and their personalities, showing them as having so many shortcomings that their interaction seems like a dysfunction junction, only for the sheer humanity of their natures making the audience feel for them all the same. Anne Curtis’ Mae is a gold-digger who married an older wealthy man for money, but her husband (Edu Manzano) is also a ruthless business mogul who cheats on his trophy wife despite desiring her looks. Marco Gumabao’s Jericho is an ambassador’s kid who tries to distance himself from his family’s political shadow, but goes about it by playing the Casanova.
Although the two manage to find some small measure of fulfillment in their illicit affair, they are aware it will not last the way their current lives are at present. And while Mae is willing to suffer financially being cut off from her husband in order to pursue time with Jericho, he is worried about their relationship making the news and shaming his family despite his own lack of desire to do as they want. Director Jason Paul Laxamana deftly handles the different inner turmoil of all connected through these two lovers who are aware their partnership is ultimately doomed.
While “Just a Stranger” could have easily just coasted on its intimate visuals to draw what audience they can, given its R-16 rating, the cast manages to elevate the story for its viewers even though its thematically forbidden premise could only end one possible way.
Ann Curtis certainly deserves what praise she is getting now for her utterly sexy role, such that her RL spouse Erwan Heusaff has positively received her character portrayal and is actually defending his wife online from critics who believe she no longer has the right to play sexy characters onscreen when she is already married. Marco Gumabao also gets plenty of attention here, and not just from his naked butt-shot. He proves that his acting chops are both genetic from dad Dennis Roldan but also coming from his own person.
“Just a Stranger” is due to enter its first weekend in cinemas soon. But while its rating will significantly cut down on the number of people who can watch on account of age, many moviegoers aged 16 and up who enjoy a balance of good looks and heavy substance in their films to watch will not go wrong by taking a look-see here. The film is still showing in theaters.
Image courtesy of Pikapika