No Other Woman deals with the tricky subject of infidelity. The subject is difficult because the emotions involved are genuinely complex, requiring a more nuanced view than one has come to expect from mainstream cinema. And true to form, No Other Woman is ill equipped to handle such issues. The film externalizes its conflict, reducing the story to two women fighting over some guy, complete with ridiculous catfight. It ends up being little more than a big screen teleserye, its characters inevitably swallowed by high camp melodrama.
Furniture supplier Ram (Derek Ramsey) has just landed a major client. He’s to supply the furniture for an entire luxury resort. He’s also caught the attention to the resort owner’s fetching young daughter Kara (Anne Curtis). The thing is, Ram is married. Kara, however, isn’t deterred by that fact. The two end up having a torrid affair, and actually fall in love. Ram’s wife Charmaine (Cristine Reyes) soon gets wind of Ram’s infidelity, and when he denies the affair, she gears up to fight for her husband’s love.
The film is meant to be a drama, as evidenced by the swelling music and all the tears shed by the main characters. But in the screening I attended, the audience was more prone to laughter. It’s quite understandable, since the film is ridiculous. The story quickly separates itself from reality as it hurls headlong into the heightened emotions of soap operas. Infidelity is a mature subject, one that requires a sense of nuance to portray properly. This film’s only compulsion is to build to ridiculous melodramatic moments that forego any sense of complexity in the characters. The entire point of the picture appears to be the delivery of a bunch of utterly insane lines of dialogue, ones that reference Quiapo and Magkaribal. Meanwhile, whole chunks of plot are dropped from the film. What about Ram’s relationship with his father, or Charmaine’s father? What about Ram’s lolo, who had a stroke?
It’s hard to tell what the stakes are. Is Ram’s marriage with Charmaine really all that great? Are Ram and Kara really in love? The film doesn’t really get into the psychology of the affair, and mostly makes it about two women fighting over some guy. All of the conflict is externalized, the film finding no interest in the internal struggles of the characters. They’re all too happy to be terrible people to each other, lacking the sense of humanity that tends to make characters relatable. Ram and Kara might be more interesting characters if at some point in their affair, they actually think about what they’re doing. The film offers no conflict in their scenes, playing it out like a standard romance.
It’s extra weird because the film ends up being a bit of morality tale, having Kara prostrate herself to Charmaine in an act of abject contrition near the end. Despite all the harm done, the film wraps everything up in a nice little package, with everyone forgiving everyone else. It’s truly ugly, and it pretty much ignores everything that happened in the last ninety minutes. The performances are largely unremarkable. Anne Curtis doesn’t really seem to have it in her to be a vamp. The act is all too apparent. Cristine Reyes fares far better in that department, exuding malice in her big bright eyes. Derek Ramsey mostly stands around.
No Other Woman might someday be a camp classic. It’s clumsy pop culture references and knack for over-the-top confrontations might have people fondly remembering it for years to come. Irony is its only cachet, the film too utterly insane to ever take seriously. The tears flow on screen, and the music swells to a dramatic crescendo, but even with all that prodding, laughter is the only proper response. In the end, even the movie has to admit that none of it really mattered, and all the supposed pain that the characters went through may as well be forgotten.