Tuos is a compelling tale about the shackles of tradition thanks to a  well executed script, captivating cinematography, stellar performances from its cast, and deft direction.

A woman chosen to keep an age-old tradition alive must now choose between her granddaughter’s life and a belief that shackled her in solitary confinement.

Outside of the congested Manila where people navigate the dangerous urban jungle are pockets of isolated society with a world of their own.

Tuos is an effective tale about the clash between fixed tradition and changing times, as well as an ode to mysticism and communal life.

Cinematography is able to imbue the story with mystery and create an atmosphere of mysticism through compositions, lighting, and contrast. At the same time, it also conveys the unspoken messages of its story. For the keen observer, there is a clear divide between the hesitant soon to be Binukot princess Dowokan and the current one Pina-ilog, which also establishes the theme of the movie. The side by side mirror images and silent confrontation at the dinner table show us two clashing forces – one of subservience to tradition and the other an independent voice longing for a new way of life. Later on, drone shots help in establishing the princess’ isolated world of confinement.

Nora Aunor, as expected, is more than reliable in portraying the strained yet resilient Pina-ilog. Barbie Fortaleza, who has been a revelation in the film, can go toe to toe with the veteran. In one key scene she shows shock, compassion and guilt all at the same time as she cleans her grandmother’s inexplicable wounds. The supporting cast also did well even though they are relegated to the background of two competing personalities.

Their story is simple but the plot has intriguing elements to keep you engaged. The movie shows details of the age-old tradition, including a beautifully shot traditional dance. While the Pina-ilog and Dowokan come into terms about the need of a new princess, an animated tale is expertly woven into the plot to tell the myth behind the tradition.

All of this makes for a captivating tale but some moviegoers may deem it too slow. There isn’t much of a conflict between Dowokan and her grandmother. Also, for a young girl rebelling against tradition, she wasn’t able to do much as the plot takes on a supernatural direction. The practical effects could have been better, but this is an indie film so you can’t expect much. The drone shots could have been kept to a minimum so the audience can focus on the intimate moments of Pina-ilog’s historical first journey out of the village.

Still, Tuos is able to accomplish what it set out to do. It’s a tale perfectly fit for the Cinemalaya audience – its a memorable story about how tradition and superstition can lead to oppressive isolation and the journey of a woman who escaped it.

My Rating: 8/10

SPOILER ALERT.

My own interpretation of the ending, and how it relates to the movie as a whole:

The movie tells us that we perceive to be true becomes our own reality. For the unknown spectator in the end, the person is told that all of it is just a story. For Pina-Ilog, her role as the Binukot princess is her reality, which may not necessarily be true. The whole movie is from her perspective after all. She was able to kill the beast in the hospital where modern medicine can cure her. I don’t know where the wounds came from though.

Feel free to speculate in the comments below.

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