Ang Nawawala is a cute little film that shits too much cuteness you have to take your eyes off the screen every once in a while or else snack on atsara to ward off the umay. It is too sweet, too cool, too devoted to creating quirky moments, Janis Ian will vomit. It shouldn’t be too hard to appreciate films that look and feel different but this quirkfest just piles on the hipness, the viewing experience feels like an hour and a half of watching someone high-five itself non-stop for its awesomeness.
As proof of its hipness (I hate this word already), it proffers the following elements:
The names – Enid, Deacon, Wes, Promise, Simone. The lack of characters called Symphony, Epiphany, Cacophony and MagnaCarte is just baffling.
Records. These kids couldn’t possibly be the types who fawn over CDs and MP3s.
The mom who likes records and photography.
The video-taking of seemingly meaningless things.
The posting in Tumblr of meaningless things.
The Royal Tenenbaums references.
The Instagramy cinematography. I’m sorry if this particular accusation seems entirely wrong. Instagram might actually be too mainstream for this work of underground art.
Enid’s incessant Zooey Deschaneling (or Zooey Glassing).
We’re supposed to care that Gibson chose a life of pretend-muteness because the loss of his twin Jamie is just too much to bear. It’s an acceptable burden but not enough to warrant the incessant whoring for sympathy and oh my god does this film try ever so hard to make us care. Its problem is that maybe it just isn’t aware that Gibson’s quiet (but still grating) brattiness is not the evidence of longing but of a sly, sneaky attempt to direct all attention to himself. Somewhere, an actual deafmute is raising hist fist, taking offense.
His case is unaided by the Saguijo-going, Pale Pilsen-swilling, Cubao-X-posing rock-art chick, Enid, whose effortless unlikeability serves as the cherry on top of the qualities just said. If Gibson’s ghost twin is really cool, he would have said to his living twin, ‘Really, Gibson? You will break the deafmute charade for this sorry excuse of a Summer/Zooey Deschanel impersonation?’ But he does not.
Even with an affecting enough performance from the twins, Dominic and Felix Rocco, everyone in Ang Nawawala is too alien. That Marc Abaya was the best part of it might simply be a happy accident. The film reaches for empathy, teenage love sweetness, and familial bond and shit, as Enid or the annoying Simone (my bet for the worst Mercedes Cabral role of the last two or so years) might say, and attempts to get our vote for this obviously still hurting family, but how can it possibly do so when constantly, it parades just how well-off they are, just how pretty, how actually really okay they are. As Sia’s album would say, Some People Have Real Problems.
Ang Nawawala deserves at least to be high-fived for being a different kind of family drama/teenage love story, although I’m not sure if it can be called either; maybe really long music video is most apt? But what it ends up being is an interestingly soundtracked fantasy that begs you to believe in its fantastical world of artsy place hang-outery, Pale Pilsen-guzzling chicks and pretend-mutes and their tiny but prettily shot concerns.