Sakaling Hindi Makarating (movie review)

cinefilipino-sakaling-hindi-makarating-movie-poster

Loaded with gorgeous shots showcasing the beauty of the Philippines, Sakaling Hindi Makarating is an impressive Cine Filipino film that bears love at its core: losing it and finding it again, may it just be in another form.

I honestly had apprehensions before watching the movie. I worried that the movie, which is one of the featured films in this year’s Cine Filipino Film Festival would just add up to the many films I’ve watched and yet failed to post reviews about. If you have known me or have been following me since the early 2010’s (or even mid-2000s), you would know that I am very fond of movies and I tend to write what I thought of them via this movie blog (it was in multiply in the olden days, este, years ago). Anyway, I’m back after almost half a year of hiatus in movie-writing. It’s gladdening to know that some of my friends have missed my movie reviews (you know who you are, guys) and said they really do read what I write (and be swayed to watch a certain movie or not, haha)! Thank you, guys, and I hope you will continue reading now that I’m back!

Sakaling Hindi Makarating is about Cielo, a 20-something woman who has just recently broken up with her fiancé, her lover for 11 years. One day, she received a postcard containing an artwork depicting Kalanggaman Island and, at its back, a letter of love. The postcard that was addressed to her apartment was given by a certain M to her, a C. Is M her former fiancé, Mark? Or is he a new guy who’s ready to pick up the pieces of her broken heart? With the help of a new-found friend/neighbor named Paul, she embarks on a solo journey around the Philippines in search for M using the clues on the postcards she has been receiving.

Sakaling Hindi Makarating is refreshing to watch because it seemed like everything about it gives a whole different kind of a movie experience. It’s comparable to a journey that one has to go through during difficult times and then eventually finding his way out by finding himself or knowing the answers in the places he goes to and with the people he encounters along the way. The movie’s themes hit close to home as tales of love, travel and  freedom echo all throughout this one-and-a-half hour Cine Filipino movie.

I have always liked how Alessandra Rossi acted in teleseryes or movies and after all these years, she has proven that she still has it with this film. She’s a natural as Cielo; she’s able to show the mood of a woman who’s into a deep pit of melancholy while trying to leave out of it with her solo traveling adventures. Her delivery of lines is so good you’d really believe she’s Cielo and not just Alessandra acting as Cielo. Pepe Herrera, her co-star in the film as Paul, is charmingly funny his acting and his lines in the film would almost always make an impression with the audience. The small supporting cast, most of whom play the characters that Cielo met on her journey around the country, is very remarkable albeit their small roles.

I love it that the movie’s director and writer, Ice Idanan, is able to balance the seriousness of the movie’s themes,the solidity of his characters and the humor behind their dialogues. The heaviness of the drama as it unfolds at the start is eventually lightened up as the story goes by. Moreover, I never did find the movie boring. Its fast pace definitely helped. The way the story was presented was beautiful in itself, and showcasing the beauty of the Philippines along the way seemed like just a bonus.

Anyone who has loved deeply will be able to relate to this film, most especially those that have lost their love eventually. There are instances when the parting of two people isn’t mutual and the fall out seems to be harder for the one who was left behind. Memories of her lost love kept flashing back through the eyes of Cielo for most of the film, and similar scenarios must have been echoing in the hearts of those who can relate to her in the audience. The movie did not exploit this heart-breaking plot, though. The writer did give lots of ideas on mending that broken heart, from singly backpacking and journeying the Philippines to finally freeing oneself from the kind of love one does not deserve.

Aside from showcasing bits of heart nuggets that have been given above, the film has presented some of the most spectacularly beautiful locations in the country: the lovely Zamboanga, the awesome Siquijor, the marvelous Marinduque, the exquisite Ilocos Norte and the beauteous Batanes. I’ve been only to one of these five places and the movie has definitely made me want to go to the other four sooner than later! Travelers and explorers alike would love Sakaling Hindi Makarating as they would be able to  feel the love and the appreciation everyone behind the fillm has put to present our country in a marvelous way.

Congratulations to the whole cast and crew for this astounding Filipino film. The pondering movie fan’s movie rating of Sakaling Hindi Makarating is 4.5 out of 5.

Metro Manila

Metro_Manila_PosterIt’s surprising to know that this movie, which is titled after our country’s capital, is helmed, written and produced by Sean Ellis, a British director. The cast is all-Filipino and the setting is none other than places in the Philippines. But not only that, the United Kingdom chose this as their entry to Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language category!

What I’ve seen in this movie reflects the reality that we face in our country today. People who find it too hard to thrive in the provinces try out their luck in the metropolis without knowing the dire consequences that they could face while being in the city.

The story of Metro Manila centers on Oscar Ramirez (Jake Macapagal) and his family who decided to escape the hardships they encounter in the northern part of the country. Hopeful yet uncertain about what lies ahead, they went to Metro Manila. It’s not long enough before they fall victims to the city’s corrupt and manipulative system. However, Oscar found hope when he landed a job as an armored truck driver/ courier. Little did he know that his life will change right after.

The movie is able to truly capture the city streets’ gripping everyday situation. I am awed to learn that the people behind the movie did not hire a Filipino writer to pen the screenplay. Instead, they wrote it in the English language and asked the Filipino actors to speak their dialogues out according to what they understood in each scene. And what came out was a brilliant and realistic script.

There are many outstanding shots in the film, whether they show squalor or splendor. The backdrop in the early part of the film ably captured the tranquil and simple life in the countryside. Meanwhile, the setting in the city totally reflected the untidy and harsh realities of the city. Such contrasting situations made a great effect not just to the eyes that see, but also the minds that ponder. The audience won’t be able to resist reflecting about what they have just watched. And it would be up to them to act upon what they have learned.

This movie is sad and tragic right from the start. There are only a few movies that I have watched that’s downright depressing and this is one of them. But it doesn’t stay that way all throughout. Glimpses of hope and promise to a life of hardships can be seen in the unfolding stories of the characters. The quick transition of their lives from a clean and simple one to a filthy and complicated one, though, has its consequences. The scenes that captured this change are praise-worthy, much like the soaring climax that ended a steady yet not boring story-telling. And wait until the satisfying end, which hits a good mark after everything that happened.

The cast of the movie is great. Jake Macapagal is very believable as Oscar Ramirez, a simple and caring husband/father who would do anything for the sake of his family. Althea Vega is always into her element as Oscar’s wife, who decided to get into a dirty job to help out. My favorite scene in the film involves these two actors, and that would be the montage of Oscar having a good time with his co-workers and his wife dancing almost naked in front of lusting men. Their portrayal of the said scene will stop your heart from beating. Jake seems to be laughing heartily during the scene but after looking deeply into it, he really seems to be crying. Althea was trying hard to please and entertain her audience, but you’ll feel in her performance her character’s deep sadness. Meanwhile, the other brilliant actor in the film is John Arcilla, who intensely portrays Oscar’s partner/senior officer in their company. He breathed and looked the part he was assigned to portray. The supporting cast is also good, and they’re part of the reason why the whole movie seems real.

If there’s one recent film about the Philippine capital that you should see, it’s this movie. Who knows, maybe it’ll open up your eyes to the reality the bright lights and pleasing sounds of the metro are trying to conceal.

Metro Manila’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

On the Job

OTJ movie poster“Wow!”

That was the expression I used after watching On the Job, the latest Filipino film to grace the silver screen. I have never watched a Filipino film that did not only make my heart race but also made me think while watching and right after watching. I might have guessed some of the plot points towards the end even before they happened, but when they did happen in the movie, I was still surprised thanks to the brilliant execution of those scenes. That’s how great the hands that made this movie were.

Top-notch directing and editing, very credible acting, excellent production design, great musical score, this movie seemed to have it all. To tell you the truth, I already had high expectations before watching because of raving reviews from critics and good word-of-mouth feedback from the people who have already watched it. It was that high that I prepared myself to be disappointed. But, no. The movie was worth the hype. On the Job delivered in a great way that acclaimed movies of many years past were not able to achieve.

The story surrounds 4 major characters: Francis Coronel, Jr. (portrayed by Piolo Pascual), an NBI agent whose lawmaker father-in-law (Michael de Mesa) supports an evil general (Leo Martinez) who’s planning to run for politics; SPO1 Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez), a capable policeman who helps Francis in his case about the general; Tatang (Joel Torre), a prisoner who is hired by cohorts of the evil general to assassinate people linking him to illegal activities, and Daniel (Gerald Anderson), the brutal yet naïve apprentice of Tatang who joins him in his assassination jobs.

It is scary to think that these things really happen in the country. Criminals get to run and be elected in the government. Prisoners get to go out of the jail and kill. Dirty policemen get to have what they want while the clean ones die young. But when you think about it, these scenarios really seem familiar. Just take into consideration the latest issue of the pork barrel scam, then you’d think that the movie’s plot doesn’t seem so unlikely. This current issue has unmasked politicians that were touted as the good ones before. It has also reminded the people that criminal masterminds tend to get special treatment and were even thought to be state witnesses that could escape punishment. Also, witnesses were barraged with different issues to taint their reputation. I don’t want to sound hopeless, but won’t you agree if I say that this world that we live in aren’t really ruled by the good ones? It’s so hard to live right if everyone seems to live in an unrighteous way. Maybe that’s the ultimate challenge for us, humans: to stand out in a tainted world.

Going back to the film, the stories mentioned above about the four people intertwined in a way that only the movie’s brilliant writers, Michiko Yamamoto and Erik Matti (also the movie’s director), could only create. Of course, the story also benefited well by its great pacing. The suspense was not always present, but during those “quiet” times, good action was still ongoing. There was no idle moments all throughout the film.

Today’s popular actors in the film actually did great. Gerald Anderson was believable as a young prisoner whose naivety and willingness to kill clouded his whole morality. Piolo Pascual embodied a character whose conscience and barely dirty hands could not afford to give up his principles in spite of familial ties. They were great, but it was the veterans Joel Torre, Leo Martinez and Joey Marquez who stood out in the film. Torre was able to turn himself into a ruthless killer-prisoner, Martinez was really irritating as the evil general while Marquez was flawless as the policeman whose integrity would make other policemen hide in shame.

Brace yourself, many praises about the film are still to come.

The shots, have you noted how they were shot? They were meticulously made in order to tell the story well. Watch out for each scene as many of them hold clues as to what’s going to happen next. Erik Matti is such a great director that he’s able to bring to life a complicated story line about the nation, its government and its people. In addition, the cinematography made the whole film seem so authentic and real.

Finally, the songs. Oh you’d just feel them at heart once they start playing. Most memorable for me was Dong Abay’s Mateo Singko. The said song was very apt for the whole concept of the film.

On the Job’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5