A Secret Affair is a contemporary story of love and lust set in the glamorous world of Manila’s high society.
Anne Curtis and Andi Eigenmann portray sorority sisters whose friendship is shattered when they become involved with the same guy: Derek Ramsay.
The movie presents emotionally graphic issues of betrayal, deception, and treachery in a relatably real manner, at times cathartically so.
As a result, confrontation scenes and flame wars in social networking sites become regular occurrences in their world filled with technologically advanced homes, meticulously designed interiors and expensive cars.
For all its evident visual sophistication, A Secret Affair also shows its street-smart side with the occasional kanto-speak. Anne Curtis’ Rafi is especially menacing when she threatens her frenemy: “Tumigil ka na kung hindi babasagin ko ang mukha mo.”
The film’s glossy look served a relevant purpose as it managed to soften the movie’s explicit themes--a feat that could be credited to first time film director Nuel Crisostomo Naval.
Nuel Naval is a 2003 FAMAS award winner for Best Production Design for the movie Kailangan Kita.
The director makes use of unusual camera angles that help strengthen the narrative of the movie. Extreme close ups are artistically executed and are particularly engaging when they focus on facial expressions of the stars. When he zooms in on Andi as she gives a monologue about her trysts with Derek, he essentially captures a woman who is very much in touch with her sensuality.
Derek – whose muscular body and tattoos get ample exposure in the movie – is an impulsive chef with raging hormones. Even in the face of his character Anton’s promiscuity and outright disregard for his fiancée’s feelings, he is still able to come off as someone sincerely sorry for his sexual indiscretions.
Anne plays Rafi, a woman who said “Yes” to her boyfriend Anton’s marriage proposal a mere two months after they met. Anne effectively portrays a confused fiancée who becomes more than ready to fight her own battles. The actress delivers a nuanced performance through the use of her eyes and subdued facial expressions. There are moments when she is unafraid to show her emotional wounds when necessary.
Andi plays Sam, the restless daughter of a construction magnate. She falls for Anton after their casual hook-up and now wants him all for herself. She smolders with sex appeal but proves that she is more than a gorgeous jailbait. Andi successfully combines awkward innocence, sultry sinfulness, and heartfelt vulnerability.
The battle between Rafi and Sam is a visual spectacle as they are not just trading witty barbs: it’s also evening gown versus evening gown; stiletto versus stiletto; hair and make-up versus hair and make-up.
The veteran stars also have confrontation scenes that add tension to the film.
Jaclyn Jose and Joel Torre play Rafi’s parents Ellen and Jimmy. Jackielou Blanco and Johnny Revilla play Sam’s parents Cate and Manuel. These characters contextualized the reasons for Rafi and Sam’s decisions as both their fathers have secret affairs and both their mothers struggle to keep their families intact.
However, seeing Jaclyn Jose strolling in her house perfectly coifed while wearing jewelry and formal wear is odd. So is everyone’s perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect shoes, perfectly painted faces. Even a French-speaking wedding planner is so over the top it’s absurd.
The husbands in the movie have it easy as they have little to do but sit back, relax and watch as their wives fight for their attention – a stereotype this movie is unfortunately helping promote.
A Secret Affair poses questions to viewers with depth and even humor: Which will prevail--tradition or modernity? Is self-sacrifice for the sake of keeping a broken family intact worth it? Is Calamine lotion enough to rid someone’s sexual itch?
And the biggest question of all: Is it possible for a guy to be physically cheating but remain emotionally faithful?
Anne’s character’s decision to value herself more by finally saying “No” to Derek’s Anton and “Yes” to her self-dignity encourages women to balance the decisions made by the head with those of the heart.
Plus, the lessons the characters learned are explicitly stated for our benefit just in case we forget. It also serves to remind us of the hard facts of life and not be distracted by its superficial beauty.
It’s tempting to watch the movie again and again not just for its glamorous atmosphere but to hear the ridiculously funny and campy quotable quotes that are sure to become pop culture references.
Produced by Viva Films, A Secret Affair is rated R-13 by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
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