Ang Nawawalang Conflict

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.

Saguijo.

The Collective.

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.

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Family Movie (Bisperas, Jeffrey Jeturian)

Bisperas takes place during Christmas Eve, a time when people are at their most materialistic and greedy. The Aguinaldo family has just been burglarized and the sense of danger that the crooks are still lurking is so effectively set up, you fear for the life of the father (Tirso Cruz III) as he walks through the dim, just-robbed home, and it took all your will not to scream. Conveniently appearing golf club aside, that scene was effectively horror-filled, if horror were ever the intent. After the scare, the father calls everyone in to safety and what the foolish family goes to check first are the most inconsequential things: a Macbook, a land title, and a cellphone. The robber has wreaked unrest within this affluent, thoroughly riches and material wealth-caring family and it’s not for reasons that have to do with their safety. Bisperas is not a thriller after all.

The film smells faintly of anti-Catholic propaganda. It has hints of anti-Catholic sentiments from the random bits of venial sins exhibited by the evidently devout Catholics who participate in ceremonial Catholic Christmas things. But then the sins are too inconsequential to create a lasting impression. Highly doubtful that if it were about that, the really fat guy buying ten puto bumbongs for himself, the woman screaming mean things to random fatties, the hunky baby daddy checking out a street skank, and the policemen dicking around for PX goods, would hardly serve as instruments of judgment. Taken collectively, the point is well made. It’s nice if it actually wasn’t trying to pass judgment although it most certainly is. If it were trying to say that Catholics or any organized religion’s most devout followers all converge in one church, receive the same body of Christ, it doesn’t provide many clues. The knocked down Catholic figurines might be saying something. But just maybe. It could be a super subtle symbolic symbolism that robbers’ knocking them over is the faith that should and ought to be… knocked over. See also the ‘God Bless Our Home’ decor hanging at the door.

What it’s not about is the exploration of a confused young man’s sexuality although it isn’t so far out a subject for such a film to broach, being an Indie-mindie film shot in the predictable shaky, handheld style that is the turf of gay, Sexuality Exploration films. Just when you think it’s about to go that route, it completely abandons it. The film’s gay is thankfully not raging inside himself about how Awful It Is To Be In This Gay Situation. Rather, the gay is beside himself with the loss of an Ateneo jacket. How very refreshing.

It’s so realistic it makes other Filipino family dramas look like cartoons. It’s the kind of family movie that does not attempt to nicely patch things up in the end because some family issues are for life. Bisperas could have done more with its seemingly insignificant characters, but after being subjected to the Aguinaldos’ gamut of issues, five people, one family, seemed enough. As a piece of entertainment, it is a bit of a struggle to enjoy but as a reflection of the typical family in a familiar society, intent on not being easy, in its quiet, tense nature, was it most affecting and effective.