Baler is a love story between Feliza, the daughter of a rebel commander and Celso, a half-Spanish soldier, set during the twilight years of the Spanish regime in the Philippines. The young c... Read allBaler is a love story between Feliza, the daughter of a rebel commander and Celso, a half-Spanish soldier, set during the twilight years of the Spanish regime in the Philippines. The young couple struggle to keep their forbidden love alive despite familial and political tensions,... Read allBaler is a love story between Feliza, the daughter of a rebel commander and Celso, a half-Spanish soldier, set during the twilight years of the Spanish regime in the Philippines. The young couple struggle to keep their forbidden love alive despite familial and political tensions, culminating in an almost year-long blockade known as the Siege of Baler.
Mark Meily's emotionally hollow saga tells the story of doe-eyed Feliza (Anne Curtis), a young Filipina from the capital of Aurora province who falls in love with Celso (Jericho Rosales), a Filipino-Spanish soldier fighting for Spain as the once mighty empire is now on a losing battle defending its overseas territories from the US. Feliza's dad (Phillip Salvador) is an adamant anti-Spanish government fighter which means their love is anything but permissible, and thus are struggling to keep their relationship secret. Outnumbered and out-gunned by the Indios they once governed and abused, the Spanish soldiers in Baler, including Celso and buddy Lope (Mark Bautista), are now forced to hole up in a church as they wait for non-existent military reinforcements to rescue them from the band of Filipinos who have now surrounded them and are waiting for their surrender.
Feliza and Celso are such hackneyed portrayal lovers who are unfortunately caught in the horrors of a military conflict; Roy Iglesias' script thankfully doesn't dwell on their relationship too much, and Meily understates it in favor of focusing on the lives of the Spanish soldiers trapped by their leaders' (Baron Geisler and Ryan Eigenmann) ignorance-induced patriotism. Meily, director of acclaimed comedies "Crying Ladies" and "La Visa Loca," seems an unlikely choice for a serious war drama, but his image of the events is more comfortably reticent than historical weepies of, say, Joel Lamangan. Such restraint, however, comes at a price, as the story lacks an emotional core, where battle scenes - which are in the first place few and far between - lack a sense of urgency, and romantic scenes dutifully go through the claptrap.
It's a beautiful film, though, at least in terms of aesthetics. Curtis plays her damsel-in-waiting with such innocence and beauty that it blends perfectly with Lee Meily's cinematography of a 19th-century rural Philippines, contrasted by the pensively gray monochrome Celso and his mates inhabit. It would have been a nice portrait were "Baler" simply all about the visuals; but Meily, despite his most noble intentions, fail to give the movie its requisite pathos, reducing "Baler" to a story with the emotional effect of a high-school history textbook.
- Dec 27, 2008