Unlike most Filipino romance films, Just A Stranger has cursing, sensual intimate scenes, and despite the sin at the base of it, you push that aside.
|Director(s)||Jason Paul Laxamana|
|Screenplay By||Jason Paul Laxamana|
|Good If You Like||Cheesy Romances That Have A Little Edge To It|
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Just A Stranger (2019) – Plot Summary
Mae has been married to Phil for quite some time, and while both know they didn’t necessarily marry for love, it has hit a point where neither really values the other. Phil sees Mae as something to have on his arm during business dinners, and Phil has pretty much become a bank account. Hence why, one day in Portugal, while minding her business, when a 19-year-old boy named Jericho approaches her, is fun, and presents what’s absent in her life, Mae initiates an affair. One that, based off her seeing a priest, and confessing to her sins, she knows is wrong but, doesn’t she deserve happiness?
Can you, as an audience member, forgive her trespasses and just relish the fact she is smiling?
The Priest’s Side-Eye
Part of the film’s narrative is Mae speaking to a priest who is 26 years old. His age is worth noting since there is a running gag about Mae’s age, even though she can’t be past her mid-30s, and between Jericho joking about it and the Priest unsure how to address her, it creates some laughs. But, the big laughs come from the priest judging Mae as she tells her story with side-eye moments and comments under his breath. Of which, there aren’t many, but enough for you to remember the character fondly.
Curtis & Gumabao Have The Type Of Chemistry Which Helps You Bypass Them Both Cheating
You’d think it would be difficult to know a woman is cheating on her husband, and a boy cheating on his girlfriend and still be invested without a pang of guilt. That isn’t the case here. Curtis and Gumabao make for the type of on-screen couple you want to see work together over and over. There is just this chemistry there, paired with writing which makes the relationship playful, but committed, that leads you to nevermind Febbie and Phil.
Which, admittedly, came as a surprise. Especially when it came to Febbie since she is a nice girl. In a way, she even looks like a younger version of Mae. But, as sweet as Febbie is, and her sins minimal, compared to Phil, you don’t really feel bad for her. You more so feel bad for Mae since she has so much to lose loving Jericho, is willing to lose it, but she needs him to step up for them to be together. Thus, most of the hate you could have, is directed at Jericho for not standing up for himself.
No One Is A Saint, But They Aren’t Evil Either
You have to take into account both Jericho, and Mae are kept people. Mae probably hasn’t worked since Phil started dating her, and with them being together 13 years, who knows what she could do beyond cleaning. Especially since it isn’t noted whether she completed her degree, never mind what her interest are. Then with Jericho, he is 19, no degree, and limited work experience. He needs his parents to bankroll his life.
Leading to the assumption you may see Phil, Rufi, or Judy in a negative light. That isn’t the case here. Yeah, Phil is a bit of an ass, but just how Mae and Jericho operate on an agreement, so did Phil and Mae. She’d be his trophy wife, who boosted his confidence and would be arm candy, and she’d have no worries. Love, commitment, stuff like that? That wasn’t part of the deal. She knows it wasn’t part of the agreement because she outright says they did not marry for love.
Then with Rufi and Judy, think about it, Rufi travels internationally as a representative of the Philippines. Surely, his charismatic son should be able to walk in his footsteps and even go beyond him right? No. Instead, he smokes weed, wastes money, wanders, and refuses to man up. And as for Judy? Well, with a husband like Rufi, someone ambitious, a provider, and decent husband, wouldn’t you want your son to have the same success? Through Febbie, he has already met a nice girl, so he’s on track. He just has to fully commit. And, by not doing so, you can see why all three are frustrated.
Mae’s Cathartic Release At The End Of The Movie
As you can imagine, Mae hears a lot about why Jericho can’t do this or that and listens to him vent until it makes her FMS (Fibromyalgia syndrome) flare-up. But, after a certain point, she goes off. Not just on Jericho, but all the people in his life and it makes you feel so good. Primarily since you know Jericho can’t say what needs to be said, so her going off, giving it to them, no Vaseline, was a good uppercut towards the end of the movie.
The Intimacy & Sexuality
While we already talked about the chemistry, I think we have to go beyond that. For whether we’re talking about butt punching, hints at nudity, and moments which make you feel hot and bothered, this movie doesn’t seem like most Filipino romances. It matches the almost cheesy romance you love and expect with that desire to see something sexy, which gets your wheels turning, and blood pumping, as well.
On The Fence
Outside of A Woman Named Hilda, The Women Aren’t Fleshed Out Much
To be fair, since this so far has been nearly a glowing review, we have to note the women of the film, specifically Jericho’s mother Judy, his girlfriend Febbie, and Mae, aren’t really fleshed out. Now, for Febbie this makes sense, due to her being treated as the other woman, and Jericho not being in love with her but just committed due to obligation – like most things in his life. Then with Judy, you could submit the culture Judy grew up in is why she is barely focused on and is more so seen than heard, but that excuse doesn’t work with Mae.
With Mae, you’d think we’d learn what she was studying for in college, hear about her parents more, even if they are deceased, and present herself as more than a woman who fell for someone at least 5 – 10 years her junior. For while that makes for a satisfactory foundation, it is disappointing that this vibrant woman, with all this personality, shields herself from not just Jericho but the viewer.
Just A Stranger (2019) – Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
What Just A Stranger delivers is what movies which originate in the Philippines are known for stateside – cheesy romances that give you butterflies. However, it kicks things up with a bit of sexuality that is usually muted in imports, and that takes things to the next level. Add in Curtis and Gumabao having the kind of chemistry which will have you negate the fact both are perpetual cheaters, it makes the only issue of the film being Mae doesn’t reveal much to us beyond her desire for Jericho and having FMS. But, despite that one issue, this is definitely worth seeing.
Just A Stranger (2019) – Ending Explained
For nearly all of Jericho’s life, Rufi and Judy, his parents, have dictated what he does and between guilt or threats of violence, he didn’t protest much. This wasn’t helped by Febbie who, because she agreed with Rufi and Judy’s grand plans, tried to coerce Jericho to be the man his parents wanted. Hence him cheating on her since she didn’t make him happy and, to be honest, he didn’t make her happy since she had to stay on him.
In fact, if it weren’t for Mae helping Jericho to buy this interior design book, she would have dumped him and maybe solved many of the issues that happen in the film. Well, not Phil discovering Mae’s affair and the constant threat to cut her off, despite his own affair with a woman named Hilda, but Jericho dying.
For, you see, when Mae was given an ultimatum of ending things with Jericho or no longer having access to Phil’s money, she dropped Phil and moved into a living space she had when in college. Which, unfortunately, was in a bad area and on his way to Mae, Jericho was cased, and on his way home, he was attacked. Mind you, this comes after a day Mae dresses him down and pretty much makes it clear that she took a leap for him so he should be able to for her. Making the fact he got attacked, made into a vegetable, and dies, something that weighs on her.
Leading to her talking to a priest, to try to absolve her, and going to Jericho’s funeral, where she badly wants to call out everyone from his parents to girlfriend. However, rather than make it about her, how she feels, and erasing how they saw Jericho for the person he truly was, she lets them keep their vision of him and walks away. All the while negating who she really was and presenting herself just as someone who knew him from his work as a tour guide.
Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments
- One of the reasons Jericho cheated on Febbie isn’t just because she was annoying, or an extension of his parents, but she was also against premarital sex.
Is A Sequel Possible?
Yes. Mae’s story feels incomplete. She experienced love, maybe for the first time, and that person died. So I’d love to see her go to school, finish her degree, and explore what love really is. Especially in the context of her being on an equal playing field with that person rather than her having money, or life experience, which makes for an uneven playing field.
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