An Honest Review Of 'Just A Stranger'

It's the cautionary tale of two people who meet, have a fling, and catch ~feelings~.
PHOTO: Just Strangers/Viva Ent

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

On a trip to Lisbon, 30-something Mae (Anne Curtis) meets 19-year-old Jericho (Marco Gumabao). The two hook up and before they part ways, they reveal to each other that they're both in relationships. Back in the Philippines, Jericho's parents make him take an internship at a museum. By chance, Mae walks in with Phil (Edu Manzano), who isn't just her boyfriend, but her husband.

Unhappy with her marriage, Mae restarts her affair with Jericho. Despite their age difference, she finds herself falling for the young man. Meanwhile, Jericho's parents pressure him to be someone he's not, and the return of his girlfriend, Febbie (Jas Rodriguez), only makes their situation more complicated.

Eventually, the state of their secret relationship starts to take a toll on both of them, with Mae wanting to be able to go public. After an unfortunate incident, Mae goes through lengths to be able to take care of Jericho. Since she's a married woman and he's a much younger man in a relationship, she is unable to go near him, much less take care of him.

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The Short, Honest Plot

An attractive 30-something woman goes to Lisbon on vacation and spends her time cavorting with a teenager instead. She falls for him despite him being a university dropout with no real plans, no prospects, and with parents who still fetch him from his place of work.

At its core though, it's just another adultery movie.

The Main Actors And Where You Last Saw Them

Anne Curtis Smith as Mae

Anne Curtis was on the big screen three times last year. She starred in Sid & Aya (Not A Love Story) with Dingdong Dantes, Erik Matti's BuyBust, and the horror film Aurora which premiered at the Metro Manila Film Festival. She's also one of the hosts of the daily noontime variety show, It's Showtime.

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Marco Gumabao as Jericho 

This isn't the first time Marco Gumabao and Anne Curtis worked together: He was also in last year's Aurora. Before starring in this film, Marco was also in the 2019 Nadine Lustre-Carlo Aquino film, Ulan. On the small screen, he was in TV shows like FPJ's Ang Probinsyano and Precious Hearts Romances Presents: Los Bastardos.

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Edu Manzano as Phil 

The last time Edu Manzano was on the big screen was in 2015's Halik Sa Hangin. These days, he's a regular on FPJ's Ang Probinsyano, playing President Lucas Cabrera.

Jas Rodriguez as Febbie 

A singer and commercial model, this is Jas Rodriguez's first film on the big screen!

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Josef Elizalde as The Priest 

Josef Elizalde was last seen in Ulan. He was also in Sid & Aya (Not A Love Story), as well as some episodes of FPJ's Ang Probinsyano and Maalaala Mo Kaya. You might remember him as a teen housemate in Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition Plus.

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Did You Know?

1, While he's playing a 19-year-old in the movie, Marco Gumabao is actually 24 years old, making him 10 years younger than Anne Curtis.

2. Edu Manzano, who plays Anne's husband in the film, is her best friend Luis Manzano's dad. When the two BFFs talked about it, Anne said that Luis thought it was weird!

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3. The film's soundtrack includes songs by local female artists Marion, Hannah Dela Rosa, and Katrina Velarde.

4. Anne's husband, Erwan Heussaff, defended Anne's work in the film saying, "If this was a married guy doing love scenes, no one would have any issue with it."

5. The museum heavily featured in the film is the San Fernando Train Station in San Fernando, Pampanga. It was one of the stops in the now-defunct Manila-Dagupan railway line.

What I Think:

From the premise alone, I thought the film was already unbelievable. Not that Anne Curtis and Marco Gumabao don't have chemistry (they actually do!), but it was ridiculous to watch someone with the face and body of Anne Curtis to be the brunt of lola jokes. Sure, Mae gives as good as she gets (at one point she asks him if all he does all day is play Mobile Legends), but Marco's character was clearly a teenager. Before we knew anything about Mae, we knew that Jericho is 19 (they never specify how old Anne's character is), that he's in Lisbon with his parents, and that he's a university dropout. He was actually kind of too pabebe for someone like Mae, who Anne played with an air of a mysterious femme fatale-type in the beginning.

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As the film goes on, we see just how much of a teenager Jericho is. His dad sets him up with an internship with his godmother, he sets his alarm so he doesn't break curfew, his parents fetch him from work, and he doesn't have his own money. Mae is practically a trophy wife and writer-director Jason Paul Laxamana doesn't bother fleshing out her character to have any kind of aspiration. In a way, they're not too different. Two lost souls who don't have much going for them, nor seem to want to get real jobs and pursue anything other than each other.

The film also doesn't show how bothersome it is for a grown adult woman to carry on an illicit affair with a teenager. In fact, we're supposed to root for them, which was very hard because, aside from being cheaters, we see that they go to expensive lengths to be together when neither of them has their own money. What's more hilarious is that the challenge they have to overcome are the people around them who make sense. Mae's rich husband may be neglectful, but we see that he's actually there when she needs him. Jericho's parents are also presented as this rigid couple, pushing their son towards a career he doesn't want despite him not showing interest in anything other than chasing after Mae.

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The story also takes twisty turns that are so stereotypical and extreme that add to it being too ridiculous to take seriously. The dialogue is also sometimes cringe-worthy. The film spends the first 10 or so minutes in Lisbon and gives it gratuitous shots, but when the story returns to Manila, the frames and scenes no longer look interesting enough to be memorable. It's a shame that this movie wasn't clever enough to be campy or satirical, and not even edgy enough to be sexy or romantic because Anne really performs well in this movie (especially towards the end), but no great acting can fix poor writing.

I Would Recommend It To:

I would recommend this to people who are already at the mall, want to catch a movie, and have already seen everything else. I would also recommend it to people who want a good chuckle. It's so ridiculous at times, it's unintentionally funny.

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