‘Aurora’ review: Dead in the water

Yam Laranas’ Aurora opens quite promisingly.

From below the sea, the camera emerges to show a forlorn beach where a solitary inn stands. As Oscar Fogelström’s ominous orchestral score blares, the camera slowly wafts towards the beach, revealing a girl, innkeeper Leana (Anne Curtis), standing tormented, looking at something in the restless sea.

The opening sequence culminates when the film finally displays what Leana is looking at  an ominous passenger ship harrowingly stranded in between rocks jutting out of the sea.

Bang to bust

Aurora opens with a bang. Sadly, it creeps towards being more of a bust.

The film’s premise is actually quite promising. Leana’s inn is failing because of the shipwreck, and as soon as the coast guard terminates the search to recover any more bodies from the site, Leana is forced to decide to simply leave the inn for more certain income elsewhere.

A couple who lost a loved one pleads with Leana to keep the inn open and promises to pay her ample money for every dead body she finds. She recruits a local fisherman (Allan Paule) to help her with the grisly task, and after disagreements regarding the morality of their job, she then pursues another acquaintance (Marco Gumabao) to assist her.

The film, written by Laranas and Gin de Mesa, feels like it isn’t so much interested in the more compelling backdrop of Leana’s quandary than it is in the opportunities to scare.

This is quite unfortunate because the film’s premise actually opens up to a world where obligations to survive cross paths with ethics, decency, and humanity. Aurora, however, is confused over how to portray Leana. At first, she is primarily motivated by the money she will earn from waiting for bodies to drift to shore. Midway, she chastises her partner, who has been selling the provisions he has found floating by the ship, for unjustly enriching himself through the misfortunes of others.

This inexplicable flip-flopping of Leana’s motives turns her into a confusing and unconvincing lead.

Curtis, despite having had the experience playing morally conflicted characters, is unable to ground Leana. The lead character is simply as lost as all the drowned victims of the marooned vessel.

TRAGEDY. A ship capsizes with thousands dead.

TRAGEDY. A ship capsizes with thousands dead.

A frame for scares

Aurora ends up unsure of its point, unless all of its ethical and social posturing is just a frame for its scares.

Frustratingly, Aurora’s scares aren’t novel or effective.

The film settles with just displaying the grisly spectacle of watery spectres filling up corners. The colors are all faded out, but instead of adding to the targeted dreariness, it only contributes to the dullness. The film also abuses Fogelström’s score. The already daunting music accompanies almost all of the film’s attempts to land a shock.

In the end, the film veers further from being the elegant and atmospheric thriller that it could have been. It is just noisy and blunt.

Aurora is a film that could have benefited from focusing on mood instead of shock. It is a film that could have been grimmer had it deepened its appreciation of the bleak repercussions of Leana’s decision to carve business out of tragedy.

As it is, the film opted for convenience. It opted to make Leana into an upright character, one who stands for virtues instead of presenting her as a person who is drowning deeper into the conflicts of simply surviving.

Aurora chose to be basic. Thus, its rewards are scarce.

MISSION. Leana (Anne Curtis) goes on a mission to retrieve some of those who died in the ship.

MISSION. Leana (Anne Curtis) goes on a mission to retrieve some of those who died in the ship.

Dead promises

Aurora had promise. Sadly, it ends up dead in the water. Rappler.com

 

 Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.

Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.