Friday, December 20, 2013

Review of MGA ANINO NG KAHAPON: Beyond Stereotypes

December 19, 2013

Showing in Glorietta 4 Cinema 1 and Megamall Cinema 7 this week is the Metro Manila Film Festival New Wave 2013.  This 4-year old indie film festival, a prelude to the long-running local Christmas tradition of MMFF, runs from December 18 to 24. Tickets are priced at only P100 each.  There are five official entries this year.

"Mga Anino ng Kahapon" (English title: "Shadows of the Past") is one of them. It has already been Rated A by the Cinema Evaluation Board, giving it advanced buzz.  It tackles the very heavy topic of schizophrenia.  You have to prepare yourself to be immersed into multiple perspectives of this maligned psychiatric condition.

Ed and Irene are both nurses, married with a young son, Brian.  Not long after Ed leaves to work in Dubai, Irene begins to have various progressively strange behaviors, ranging from paranoia about home security to entertaining "house guests" that only she can see.  As Irene's condition worsens, her entire family is thrown into a shambles as bad memories from her past, as well as Ed's life, add further pain and drama to what she is going through.

Ms. Agot Isidro, we have always recognized to be an excellent dramatic actress in her roles on television.  In this role, she portrayed descent into madness of this wife and mother with delicacy and subtlety.  We never really know when she is in a lucid state of mind or not.  She certainly did not go all "Sisa" on us.  This is a most riveting performance that should merit serious awards consideration.

TJ Trinidad, I took notice of his acting talent when I saw "The Road," and then in "Sana Dati." Here, TJ was again on top of his game, despite the fact that he does not really look like a financially-challenged nurse.  As the long-suffering husband of Irene, TJ  effectively showed the valiant effort of his character to remain sane for the sake of his family, no matter how frustrating that could be.

Special mention has to go to Carlo Cruz, who played Ed's younger brother Carlo.  He had his own important moments in this film.  Two of these were among the most memorable in the entire film  -- the one where he was eating breakfast with Irene, and another one about his girlfriend Cathy.

I have to say though that viewing this film was not as morbid as the synopsis would have you expect. Director Alvin Yapan, who also wrote the screenplay, tackled this with dignity and restraint, and also with a sense of humor.  The sense of suspense hanging throughout the film was gripping, you would not know what to expect next. The photography was excellently dramatic, with some intense close-ups loaded with meaning.  Aside from schizophrenia, the story touched also on various local issues as diverse as OFWs to Martial Law.

This is a small movie for a seemingly limited audience, but its message, though depressing, is socially-relevant and deserves to be tackled in film and widely seen.    The problems with schizophrenia patients were vividly shown here, and people need to know these things in order to empathize with them and their families. There is no stereotype here, just a real and compassionate portrayal of a debilitating and much stigmatized mental condition.  8/10

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