By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 8-Jul-2018  ·  
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Pablo Escobar and Virginia Vallejo as portrayed by Bardem and Cruz. Portrayal was real but a little less on the insights.

Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s “Loving Pablo” is sure to find resonance in Philippine scenario as it relives the life and times of Columbia’s most notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar, portrayed with such flair and stunning realism by Javier Bardem.

His private army, his mistress (TV personality Virginia Vallejo portrayed by Penelope Cruz), his love and hate relationship with the media are all familiar components of the Filipino politician. That he was a farmer’s son makes his social origin even more cinematic.

The sequences of political campaign in the movie are pretty much like elections Philippine style especially in the scenes taken in congress in a hearing investigating Colombia’s notorious drug lord.

The parallel is bound to shock and with the daily reportage on killings during drug operations, you will have to shake your head to realize there is a Pablo Escobar in the Philippine drug scene.

The movie is based on the memoir of TV host Virginia Vallejo (Penelope Cruz) and her love affair with the drug lord. As she is given a ringside view of the drug lord’s lair, Vallejo is introduced to the vast network of drug dealers in Colombia and abroad.

On the first half of the film, you see a love affair develop and you see why both are fascinated by each other.

In Escobar’s presence, Vallejo feels protected and she willingly gives in to his passionate overtures.

But as the drug lord’s vast network is exposed, things became too complicated for the TV host. She was fired from her network and nobody wants to take her in because of her association with Escobar.

Meanwhile, you see a loving portrait of the drug lord as husband and father. He can kill to build a fortune and he can kill too to protect his family. It looks like he fell for the TV host to give himself media mileage in the elections which he won.

Towards the bloody end of the film, you see relationships end and fortunes crumbling in the charade called people using people.

What this movie tells us is that Escobar’s story is happening in Philippine shores and it won’t be long when his local counterpart shows up in another congress hearing.

Towards the end, the violence overwhelms, and you see the big story on the rise and fall of a drug lord.

If at all, the film tells that drug problems wherever they happen – Colombia, Philippines or Mexico -- should not be taken lightly.

As it is, the writer-director gives us a shocking portrait of how drug dehumanizes and makes unfeeling demons of us all.

Bardem’s portrayal doesn’t invite instant awe but the way he built up the character is a tribute to his acting prowess.

Cruz has pinned down Vallejo’s dual personality and hers is a characterization that tells us to be wary of beauties and charmers with hidden agenda.

The portrayal of Julieth Restrepo as Escobar’s martyr wife is commendable and is a perfect foil to the aggressive mistress, Vallejo.

True enough, the film is timely as Manila’s daily headlines.

It tells us to watch politicians wearing double masks as public servant and full-time drug dealer protector.

It tells us to be wary of justice secretaries selling favors to the highest bidder.

It tells us to watch RTC judges actually in cahoots with drug personalities.

This film has a steamy dose of sex and violence and how the lead characters used  them to promote their selfish ends is another shocking scene from Aranoa’s lower depth.

Escobar’s life as told by Aranoa is both lesson and warning to both drug dealers and people in authority.

You have to look hard to find insight after close to two hours of this drug lord’s tale.

Well-acted as it is, the film is pregnant with lessons we can all learn from in this tale of love and depredation.

You see the two sides of the drug lord as Vallejo mumbles at the end of the film, “I love Pablo, I hate Escobar.”

“Loving Pablo” -- distributed by Viva International -- opens in cinemas June 20.

Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in the slum area of Co-lumbia. A slice of PH's Smokey Mountain recreated.
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