Blurred lines: A ‘Bliss’ Film Review

4.25 over 5

Jerrold Tarog did it again. After I’m Drunk, I Love You, his latest masterpiece, Bliss, shook the Philippine movie industry with its psycho-sexual and thriller themes. Starring Iza Calzado as protagonist Jane Ciego, the mind-boggling movie was met with praises and acclaim, both locally and abroad. In fact, Calzado earned the Yakushi Pearl Award for Best Performer at the 12th Osaka Asian Film Festival in Japan on March.

The TBA, Artikulo Uno, and Quantum Films production is a bold change of pace from mainstream, Filipino movies. Filled with enigma, the story urges the viewers to make the gears in their brains working first before ultimately understanding and enjoying the plot.

The Story

4.33 over 5

Bliss is inspired by various films, such as Persona and Misery. It also borrows some ideas from the popular Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer Inception.

It tells of the sentiments of Jane Ciego, who once dreamed of rising into stardom when she was a little girl, but later on found herself getting burnt out from her mediocre career. She attempts to step out of her box when she agrees to produce and star in a new film, which somehow parallels her real experiences. Director Lex (Audie Gamora) has promised her that with this project, she will be globally recognized.

However, she suffers from a terrible mishap whilst filming. In the tragic aftermath, she is left under the care of her husband, Carlo (TJ Trinidad), and a freak nurse, Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara) inside an unfamiliar house. Soon, she begins to experience weird and horrifying things which push her to the limits of sanity. It finally dawns on her that she is imprisoned in her house with nothing but the opposite of bliss.

The movie delves on the common idea that people under comatose can hear what visitors are telling them, and their words may inspire the patient to arise from slumber. However, in Bliss, Jane was not only able to hear – she also saw. She was trapped inside her reverie, but at first she was unable to realize it. Tarog has intelligently managed to blur the line separating the real from the dream world, which is why viewers will find themselves confused as the story progresses. Towards the end of the movie though, you will at last comprehend how reality found its way into fantasy.

Furthermore, the director incorporated different subplots into his story. Most noteworthy of which would be the sexual themes expounded by Vergara’s dual characters (she also plays Rose — a perverted nurse in the real world). Her sensual acts have rattled the audience even more. Well, Vergara is the main reason why the film was initially rated “X” by the Philippine Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

There is also the idea that Jane was only being used by the people around her – her husband so that he could regain his wealth, her mother (Shamaine Buencamino) so that she could do whatever she wants to do in her life, and her director so that he could be famous all around the world. All of these were a heavy burden which contributed to Jane’s descent into madness.

Aside from all of these, the movie also explores the idea that life is a wheel that goes round-and-round – eventually, the past will catch up on you. When they were kids, Rose was molested by her neighbor, while Jane was an aspiring star. As they grew older, their individual childhood experiences greatly influenced their actions.

Indeed, Bliss is a story within a story within a story [within a story…] that will surely make your brain go loco!

Sights and Sounds

4.17 and 4.00 over 5 respectively.

The sights and sounds in the movie were all above average, but I really liked how they played together. Tarog has efficiently used various audio and visual elements to tell his perplexing tale.

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Jane is trapped in an unusual house – a representation of her dream world. (Photo from esquiremag.ph)

The setting — a maze-like house, with its doors and windows covered with sheets of white paper — together with the lack of communication means to the outside world, obviously emphasize the fact that Jane is somewhat imprisoned in her dream world. The use of white paper may also mimic a padded cell in a psychiatric hospital. This could tell the viewers that Jane is at her wit’s end. There were also lots of objects that seemed very confusing at first as to why they were there, but the ending scenes explained what they all meant. Knowing their essence towards the finale was truly satisfying.

Various sound effects were also utilized in the movie. As the film opens, the audience will immediately be filled with suspense as heartbeat and panting sounds will be heard. I initially thought that using them in a thriller is cliché, but later on, I learned that they carried a different meaning. This is similar to all other sound effects present in Jane’s dream world.

Combined, all visual elements and sound effects may seem unimportant or puzzling at first, but they are the ones that really drive the story forward.

Anyway, here’s a trivia for all of you: Tarog himself created the film’s not-so-special score. Still, talk about talent!

The Stars

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Adrienne Vergara, Ian Veneracion and Iza Calzado on the set (Photo from Bliss‘ official Facebook page)

4.25 over 5

All actors and actresses were able to portray their roles efficiently. Although the acting felt quite too much, it seemed fit to the story. Each member of the cast provided depth to his/her respective character with his/her typical Filipino acting. This gave the film an ensemble of colorful characters.

Giving life to Jane Ciego’s character is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges in Iza Calzado’s not-too-bright career. I am glad that she was able to deliver. Well, Jane somehow counterparts the real Iza, so it was probably not too difficult for her to be Jane.

TJ Trinidad seemed to exert no effort at all at portraying a conyo character. Ian Veneracion, meanwhile, played an actor who played Joshua, husband of Abigail, Jane’s character in the movie she was producing. Joshua was very far from Ian’s usual good guy roles – he was a [sexually] aggressive partner. Despite this, Ian showed that he can play both sides of the coin. Together, in their six libo-worth booze night scene, Carlo and Joshua gave some sort of comic relief to the film’s heavy plot.

Most striking though of all cast members would be Adrienne Vergara. She was able to play two characters with differing personalities in the same movie. Lilibeth was an odd nurse who always spoke in sarcasm in Jane’s dream world, while Rose was a quiet yet a sexually abusive nurse in the real world. The way she portrayed both roles, and made one unique from the other while maintaining the parallelism between the two, was stunning. Hats off to Miss Vergara!


All in all, Bliss is undeniably a splendid work of art. Albeit not entirely new, its enigmatic story was brilliantly told, thanks to the various audio and visual elements incorporated into the film, and the cast’s efficient acting. Indeed, Bliss is another success for Tarog. He would surely go places, now that he has proven that he can make films in varying genres. It would definitely be exciting to wait for his next cinematic chef-d’oeuvre.

Until then, I shall revel in Bliss.

bliss film score board

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Blissfully watched Bliss at Festival Mall, Alabang with some of the people who helped me design NTRL at 15 and RITM @ 36.
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