24 January 2013 | templar88
Love in the Throes of Despair
Tonight, I watched Ang Nawawala (What Isn't There) in the University of the Philippines' Film Institute. I was really looking forward to see this movie because it would be the first movie by acclaimed music video director, Marie Jamora. I thought I had very high expectations of the movie but it turns out, I didn't set mine high enough.
Gibson Bonifacio is a twenty year old Filipino who has been receiving treatment abroad for a psychological trauma that prevents him from speaking. He comes home for Christmas to his parents and two sisters. He comes home to a home cooked meal prepared by the help in an upper class home. But, unlike his social standing might suggest, all is not well in the Bonifacio home. Like what Gibson's impairment might suggest, there are words that are not spoken, truths that haven't been revealed and stories that haven't been told. As the title says, the story revolves around the things that are missing in the picture, a voice, a person or even happiness that once existed.
In the beginning, Gibson avoids almost all possible social contact when he can. But, through the help of his best friend, Teddy, he begins to make contact with the world. In this case, the world happens to be Manila's indie music scene, where the duo, meet quirky and enigmatic, Enid, who Gibson develops an attachment to. Gibson and Enid find themselves introducing each other to new music, new ideas and eventually, to each other. His inability to talk makes this process more creative and at times, heart wrenching. As Gibson, reveals himself to you in the narrative, you find yourself captive to his every emotion, every typed note and every flashback. In the process, Gibson begins to overcome his difficulties slowly with the help of Enid. Hoping against hope, that you will hear him speak again.
I've seen a lot of indie films from my country but I rarely feel connected to a film. In a sea of films about poverty, social injustice, violence and death, nobody really talks about the deterioration of the Philippine family under tragic circumstances. It strays away from social conflict and instead talks about internal conflicts. The constant struggle of trying to understand one's personal difficulties and in doing so, gaining the capability to understand the other.
I think the filmmaker brought out the best in the Philippine family dynamic. At it's very best, we see the happiness shared by a genuine loving family and when times are tough, we see how the family copes with the challenges ahead. Something, Filipinos should be thankful for.
Technically, the narrative was pretty straightforward with a few flashbacks in between. The cinematography was beautiful. The interspersing of scenes from the city showed how uniquely wonderful the holidays are in the Philippines. The editing was superb and the transitions were well thought out. The music came from mostly recordings from live bands and music from all vinyl records. Sound quality was good and I appreciated the use of silence in certain scenes to heighten the moment. But, this couldn't have been done without good performances by cast, notably Gibson (played by Dominic Roco), Enid (played by Annicka Dolonius), Esme (played by Dawn Zulueta) and Wesley (played by Boboy Garovillo).
Jamora's first outing was a brilliant homage to culture in the Philippines, interspersing new concepts with the old and finding your own little niche.
On a more personal note, it brought back memories of growing up in the Philippines, finding comfort in confiding in your friends, going out and getting wasted to the tunes of your favorite bands and finding the perfect song for that perfect moment. It reminded me of past loves and the happiness that can be found in one's family, if one can see past all their transgressions.
Definitely worth watching (10/10)