Movie Review: Fun, Trashy Sin Island Just Wants to Get Your Blood Pumping

TL;DR: Sin Island may be dumb & ridiculous, but that’s only part of what makes this sexy, trashy erotic thriller so much fun.

It’s still shocking to think that Star Cinema would release Sin Island as their Valentines’ Day offering. Instead of a lighthearted romantic comedy, they decided to bankroll on something darker & sexier; it’s their first sexually charged movie since Ang Lalaki sa Buhay ni Selya (The Man in Selya’s Life) released in 1997. While we could only theorize the reasons behind this move as either influenced by the success of the Fifty Shades trilogy, an act of commendable risk-taking, losing out on a bad bet, or something else entirely, this is a laudable effort that doesn’t prepare you to how trashy it’s going to be.

David (Xian Lim) is a passionate photographer who found success shooting magazine covers & weddings. He’s married to a flight attendant named Kanika (Colleen Garcia), & both of them have a loving, passionate marriage. But when he’s forced to close his business due to his assistant’s mistake, he spirals toward despondency & loses his self-esteem that goes on for two years. Meanwhile, Kanika is becoming more attracted to Stephen (TJ Trinidad), one of the pilots she’s working with. It’s obvious that Stephen feels the same way, but it’s only physical & she never crosses the line; even if her best friend goads her about it. David figures this out & they have a huge fight. At the request of his friend, he decides to go on an exclusive resort on Sinilaban Island; or Sin Island as it’s also called. That’s where he meets Tasha (Natalie Hart), a broken-hearted swimsuit designer who decided to take a break when her husband cheated on her. Both of them had an awkward start, but once they slowly get to know each other, it sets off a series of events that will endanger his current marriage, & their lives.

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Let’s circle back to the inciting incident that caused David to ruin his life. His assistant carelessly put a bag containing all of their SD cards they used for the wedding beside the fountain, which was subsequently kicked by a kid into the water while the assistant was taking a picture. They couldn’t recover any of the images in the SD cards. The client sued them for ₱ 10 million. His brother, who’s also a lawyer, tells him he has no choice but to take the deal. The incident caused him to lose all of his clients, compelling him to close his business.

The movie asks us to believe that a man like David, who runs a successful wedding photography service, did not have any emergency contingencies just in case something like this would happen. It also asks us to believe that his supposedly skilled brother couldn’t find a way to retaliate against the couple or lessen its impact on the business. Finally, it also thinks that this sole incident will cause David to lose his clients. This is just a taste of how unbelievably stupid this whole movie is going to be. It has lots of moments where people are acting like incompetent idiots so the movie can reach its next plot point, or the supporting characters encouraging the leads’ bad behavior & castigating them for following their advice to create conflict without probing the reasons behind it. It also embraces toxic monogamy culture in the way it explores a spouse’s attraction to people who aren’t their partners & the jealousy that results from it without examining the behavior nor its effects on a relationship.

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That’s fine, since it’s the furthest thing from the movie’s mind; & the only thing it has on its mind is a pulsating id. Star Cinema & director Gino M. Santos made a melodrama focused on infidelity with flashes of camp that turns into a trashy erotic thriller, that feeds on our insatiable desire to watch conventionally attractive people with gorgeously toned bodies to fight & fuck each other out of love – often in ridiculous ways – with the high production values that’s expected from the studio. It’s a very racy film oozing with sex, violence & style, presenting it without any shame, & maximized to titillate audiences without going over the R-16 rating; which include the torrid sex scenes that spreads the pleasure & objectification to both sexes & a “cheat day” discussion with Stephen that ends with him eating a mussel while Kanika & him exchange sordid looks as David realizes what is happening. While it focuses solely on the internal struggles of David & Kanika’s marriage without blaming it on their sex life, it’s not above embracing the tropes of the genre; which are often problematic & clichéd. That’s only part of the charm, since the movie dives headfirst into it with gleeful relish.

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You can even see it from everyone in the cast. Xian Lim may be lackluster when he deals with David’s downward spiral, but he works best when he’s embracing the movie’s sleazy tone. Colleen Garcia reveals the depth of Kanika’s sadness & disappointment to David, & she gets a chance to join in the movie’s shenanigans too. But the center of the movie’s jagged, seedy heart is, well, Nathalie Hart. She is funny, charismatic, & sexy, using her charm to hide her cunning, nutty self. She will try her best to hide it, but once the facade drops, she will snarl, seduce, or strike anyone if it will help her get what she wants.

But what elevates this to something special are the stylish visuals shot by Mycko David & the spot-on production design by Aimi Geraldine R. Gamboa. The sets switch from extravagant to intimate without toning down the movie’s excesses. Mycko David spruces it up with low-key cinematography that relies on fewer light sources that often cast shadows on the actors’ faces, or backlighting the actors to turn them into silhouettes, creating a sense of mystery & danger that boils under the surface until it explodes in the third act. He also captures every knowing look, sensuous touch & deep moan within the constraints of its movie rating. It just emphasizes how much of the movie’s pleasure are skin-deep, which is fitting for a movie filled with naked bodies. While there are trashier movies out there, that doesn’t make this any less fun. It’s completely upfront to what it is & executes it with such style, it’s hard to resent it. It only wants to please your primal instincts, & if you give it a chance, there’s a chance you couldn’t resist its charms.

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Movie Review: Enjoyably Buoyant My Fairy Tail Love Story Takes Aim at Fairy Tale Endings

TL;DR: My Fairy Tail Love Story is a fluffy romantic comedy that riffs on Disney’s The Little Mermaid to reveal the complicated nature of love & sacrifice. It takes a while to show its true aims, though.

Early on in the cute & pleasant My Fairy Tail Love Story, an old woman named Lola Gurang (Rubi Rubi) warns Chantel (Janella Salvador), a spoiled, selfish woman who bosses everyone around her, about the mermaid’s curse. She tells the story of a mermaid who frolicked around the island & fell in love with a local fisherman. Chantel barely listens to her story & would rather have fun with her friends, so she cuts her off & claims she knows what happens next: the mermaid turns into a human thanks to a “true love’s kiss.” Chantel leaves in a huff, & under Lola Goreng’s breath, she declares that this isn’t an ordinary mermaid story.

She isn’t lying though. My Fairy Tail Love Story is a clever riff on Disney fairy tales, specifically The Little Mermaid, stuffed within a light romantic comedy for all ages. It’s a full of smart ideas about love in the context of fairy tales that’s already been tackled before, including by Disney themselves, but that doesn’t make it a less admirable effort.

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When Chantel was ignoring Lola Goreng’s advice, she was on an island bought by her father for her 18th birthday; her parents are definitely rich but have separated, & her new stepmother is a nice, caring woman who used to be her nanny. When she picks up a heart-shaped stone at the bottom of the sea, she is cursed to become a mermaid who can never stop singing when she speaks. Both Chantel & her childhood friend Noah (Elmo Magalona) try to find a way to get her body back to normal. Chantel insists she needs to receive a “true love’s kiss,” while Noah insists they return to the island & ask for Lola Goreng’s help. She relents, but in a stroke of luck, the plane of famous international DJ named Ethan – who played in her birthday party – crashed on the same island she was cursed. She decides she’d rather get a true love’s kiss from Ethan & rescues him, which angers Noah, since she’s fallen in love with Chantel but has never told her yet.

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It turns into a cheery, straightforward romantic comedy with elements of farce, as Chantel hides her mermaid form with the help of Noah from everyone, while the three leads are trapped in a typical love triangle. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s delightful enough that it never becomes a bore. Janella Salvador does her best impression of a privileged woman who demands everything to be about her, yet she never pushes Chantel into a grotesque caricature that she becomes overbearing. There’s an innate sweetness to Chantel that makes it easy to root for her. Both Elmo Magalona & Kiko Estrada are fine partners for Salvador & share great chemistry with her.

But it only delivers on Lola Gorang’s promise near the end, when it finally reveals its true intentions. It takes a while to get there, but it’s worth it, as it finally ties every thread in the movie into a treatise about the complicated nature of love & sacrifice in the real world; where a “happily ever after” isn’t always achievable. It does have the unfortunate side effect of piling on everything by the end that it feels rushed. That doesn’t make it less effective. Even if My Fairy Tail Love Story acknowledges that life isn’t a fairy tale, that doesn’t mean happy endings aren’t achievable. A love that ends is a chance to forge a new one that hopefully would last a lifetime.

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