“About Us But Not About Us”
Screened at the 41st Annual Reeling Chicago International LGBTQ+ Film Festival (5/5); Letterboxd (4.5/5), Imdb.com (9/10), TMDB.com (4.5/5)
How well do we understand the situations we find ourselves in? Most of us probably think we have a pretty good handle on them much of the time. But, when a gay, middle-aged Filipino college professor (Romnick Sarmenta) meets with one of his students (Elijah Canlas) whom he hasn’t seen for a while but toward whom he had shown preferential, nurturing treatment at one time, what starts out as a pleasant lunchtime reunion slowly turns into a series of troubling eye-opening revelations. Told through what seems like a seemingly innocent, somewhat innocuous conversation between the duo, writer-director Jun Robles Lana’s latest opens like a latter-day version of “My Dinner with Andre” (1981) but slowly turns unexpectedly dark and sinister, shedding a whole new light on the now-surprisingly deceptive opening act. As a result, what starts out as a seemingly harmless, slightly tedious encounter becomes engrossingly captivating as the true nature of each of the characters is revealed. The picture’s multilayered narrative grows ever more absorbing the further it plays out, showing us just how easily it can be for us to be deceived by circumstances, including in situations where we think we know the score but don’t. It also presents viewers with an intriguing look at how we can be mirrors of one another but never recognize the similarities until they’re squarely shoved in our face. (And who would have thought that watching two people eat a meal and talk could be so engaging?) “About Us But Not About Us” is a delicious little cinematic nugget that will likely leave audience members’ mouths agape by picture’s end, especially when looking back at how things start out and how they eventually wind up, putting a delightfully surprising spin on the film’s skillful incorporation of ambiguously cynical elements whose meanings don’t become fully apparent until the credits roll. Don’t be quick to give up on this one; it’s worth the wait to see what it delivers – and how well it does so.