Did the ten little mistresses do it?
“Ten Little Mistresses” is the first Filipino Amazon Original movie. Directed by Jun Robles Lana, it stars John Arcilla as the new-widow-with-10-mistresses, Eugene Domingo as the mayordoma with Donna Cariaga as her second-in-command and Carmi Martin, Pokwang, Agot Isidro, Kris Bernal, Arci Muñoz, Sharlene San Pedro, Adrianna So, Kate Alejandrino, Iana Bernardez and Christian Bables as the 10 little mistresses.
The trailer pegs the film as a murder mystery—and it is—but it’s a comedy first and foremost. And while it doesn’t have the intellectual intricacies of Knives Out: Glass Onion, it does keep you entertained with its twists and turns.
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The film opens up with a musical led by Domingo’s Lilith, backed by her army of household help—because what is more campy than that?—and an introduction of the mistresses. We focus on them for the next few minutes. Magenta (Martin) believes she should be the next wife of their shared-and-newly-widowed boyfriend, Helga (Isidro) and Diva (Bernal) argue about their fashion choices, Because (So) takes pictures with the help since she’s some sort of influencer. All this conversation is put to a stop twice: first, because Aura (Muñoz) looks into her green ball and has a vision (she says something bad will happen and they shouldn’t be there); and because Don Valentin (Arcilla) finally arrives.
That evening, they kick off Valentin’s birthday dinner with lavish gifts for the mistresses. Land titles, cars, gold bars and even gold-plated vibrators are handed out. But then the alarm reminding Valentin that he must take his meds rings. He takes them and stumbles rather clumsily to his death.
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The thrill of Ten Little Mistresses isn’t in that it’s a particularly intelligent film. In fact, the answers are oftentimes provided to you. But just when you’ve solved one aspect of it, another can of worms opens up. Someone admits to killing Valentin, but the corpse’s color isn’t as it should. So when you think “Oh, the mystery is solved” another one unravels, and you’re back at square one. Sometimes it feels like the movie is playing you, instead of you playing it—which is only fitting because the entire film is loaded with Pinoy humor.
From Pokwang closing the conversation because she “locked it and swallowed the key” to Valentin’s egg-shaped birthmark on his butt, Ten Little Mistresses hits home because it feels very much like home. The ladies crowding the room is like a family reunion (someone’s always trying to one-up the other), and the entire aspect of having 10 mistresses feels like a story we’ve heard (though exaggerated) of an uncle or great-grandfather. It’s a great choice as the first Filipino original to join the Prime Video roster. What could better sum us up than our humor?
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But Ten Little Mistresses isn’t just about campy fashion choices, strange musical numbers and a murder mystery. It tries to pose a question about when love should—or can—be considered wrong. It dares you to point the finger at yourself. Because no matter what mess you find yourself in, isn’t it you that put yourself there?
“Ten Little Mistresses” premieres on Prime Video this February 15, 2023.
Art Macky Arquilla