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NOW SHOWING: Heady romantic summers, broken dreams in provocative dramas

By Rito Asilo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:02:00 10/24/2009

Missed opportunities

In Joselito “Jay” Altarejos’ latest gender-bending drama, “Ang Laro ng Buhay ni Juan,” destiny also delivers low blows to the dreams and big-city aspirations of 25-year-old Juan Reyes aka Erwin (Ray An Dulay). After three years of odd jobs and missed opportunities, the protagonist’s misadventures in the metropolis have left him barely hanging by a thread.

In gritty cinéma vérité fashion, the film follows Erwin on the day before he leaves the cruel urban jungle for good. He’s convinced there’s a better future waiting for him in his otherwise impoverished hometown in Masbate. Unsurprisingly, the fateful day turns out to be an emotional roller-coaster ride for Erwin as he exchanges pleasantries with his neighbors, then bids his lover, Noel, goodbye.

It’s also Erwin’s last day at Inner Sanctum, the seedy underground gay bar where he works as a live-sex performer. However, after his final show—and just as he’s about to leave the club—something happens that weakens his resolve to turn a new leaf.

Altarejos’ latest gay-themed scorcher tackles risqué subject matter with sensitivity and uncompromising vision—but, like “Lalaki sa Parola” and “Lihim ni Antonio,” it is not for everyone. Fortunately, “Laro” is a notch above the well-meaning but ultimately unsuccessful “Little Man, Big Man” or the thematically featherweight “Kambyo.”

For the most part, Dulay does well as Juan/Erwin, but holds back in some highly charged dramatic moments that require more urgency and commitment from him. The other notable portrayal is turned in by Richard Quan, who plays the sympathetic undercover agent in the finale’s good cop-bad cop scenario.


Jay weaves a clear and briskly paced tale. He puts his storytelling dexterity and visual flair to good use as he subtly shifts from one social commentary to another. However, the needlessly protracted dance sequence could have used some trimming.

Moreover, the provocative scenes he conjures up onscreen won’t sit well with conservative viewers, but they do come with a cautionary message—and a warning: Scenes that depict violence or graphic sex are never a pretty sight.

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