Wednesday, August 6, 2014

CINEMALAYA 2014: Review of KASAL: Closeted Commitment

August 5, 2014

Sherwin (Arnold Reyes) is a lawyer who dealt with annulment cases.  Paolo (Oliver Aquino) is an indie film director.  They had been in a relationship with each other for the past three years. When Oliver suggested for them to take what they had to the next level and get married, Sherwin insisted that same-sex marriage will never fly in the Philippines, all the while dwelling on an episode of infidelity by Paolo which happened a year ago. 

One day, the couple go to Sherwin's hometown to attend the wedding of his teenage sister Mary Jane who got impregnated by her similarly teenage boyfriend Bong. Before, during and after the wedding ceremony, Paolo and Sherwin see more clearly how they stand in the public eye, and make very important decisions about their own relationship.

Arnold Reyes plays Sherwin as very pragmatic and logical. Oliver Aquino plays Paolo as the more emotional and sentimental partner. These two guys performed well with and against each other. It was good to see 90s sexy nymphets Maureen Mauricio and Rita Avila now playing mothers of Sherwin and Paolo, respectively.  I was impressed with newcomer Chloe Carpio who plays the young bride Mary Jane.  Her scene before the wedding apologizing to Sherwin and that scene during the exchange of vows were both short, but her performance was memorably infused with so much emotion.

This film tackles love and commitment in the context of a homosexual couple, but such issues also hold true for any couple, gay or straight.  In fact, we have seen this same story in various incarnations with various characters, in both local and foreign films. This is a very universal conflict that no one group holds exclusively. 

However, there is still the closet to contend with in gay relationships, especially in the Philippine setting. The pointed homily during the wedding Mass drives home that stigma. 

However, the best aspect of this film is its direction.  Director Joselito Altarejos takes the sensitive script he has co-written by Zig Dulay and brought it to life with innovative visual technique. We listen in on a couple arguing through closed window panes during a rain storm.  We bear witness to a couple fighting via a scene shot through the back window of a car. We have seen so many wedding videos in real life, but Altarejos manages to capture these simple rural matrimonial rites and all its attendant traditions in radiantly dramatic and evocative camera angles, right up to the touching ending. 5/10.


I confess I did not really plan to watch this film.  I had a choice between this film and another film entitled "Asintado".  Reviewers had not been kind to "Asintado", one even going on to say that it was the worst of all the entries he had watched. At the last minute, I decided to watch "Kasal" instead. 

Knowing that this had a gay theme, I was apprehensive about watching this film. I was hoping that nothing too graphic would be shown until I saw the R-18 rating. That uncomfortable scene would be shown in the first fifteen minutes -- a bold lovemaking scene not hidden under the covers, obscured only slightly by lights and shadows of a movie (starring Boots Anson-Roa!) being projected over them.  This scene was in one long continuous take.

Anyway, after that  scene was done and over with, the rest of the film was actually a very good discussion on various aspects of relationships, love and commitment, thus being pertinent to audiences of all preferences. I personally thought they could have done without that sex scene and still not lose the messages it wanted to convey.


  1. Personally, I don't think you're being objective towards this film. By saying you were apprehensive about watching this film, and you were "uncomfortable" during the intimate scene? Let me ask you- if it were a sex scene between a straight couple, would you still have complained? No. Even friends whom I've thought were open-minded had expressed discomfort, compared to other films where the sex scenes were much more lewd and seemingly unconnected.
    Also, many films have a lot of subtle cues and hints that would take viewers many times to see in order to notice, much less understand and connect with the story. Your view on the wonderful cinematography of this film is sub-par at best. Did you even notice the irony between the plot and the shots taken? Your closed-mindedness affects your review negatively, thus I suggest you work on broadening your horizons.
    Sincerely, Kat.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Kat. I realize I need to broaden my views about these things. I thought I was ready for certain things in art, but I still felt uncomfortable because of its unfamiliarity to me personally. That is why I stated it honestly so readers know where my review was coming from. But yes, I need to broaden my world view in order to write reviews more objectively.

  3. Thank you for posting your film review. Now,I'm in a better position to decide whether to allow my daughter ,who' s a minor, to watch this film as a requirement of a professor in her university.

  4. I saw this movie. Isang beses lang. But I think I'll watch it again. Parang masyadong loaded.

  5. I saw this movie. Isang beses lang. But I think I'll watch it again. Parang masyadong loaded.

  6. Where do i see the movie? I havent got the chance to got to the festival... Is there a dvd copy?

  7. I felt the same. I thought the love making scene was too long making it quite discomforting. But I also thought that maybe the director is trying to be bold. While I am watching the film you will feel the strong points of the movie. The emotion, it gets in to you. Mapapaisip ka sa movie. Theres a thirst of thinking what will happen next. The director was successful in providing a mix of comedy drama and reality in this movie. Personally I am a critic others call us the intellectuals. And yes this is a movoe that I will watch over and over again.

  8. The bed scene was long but the wedding rites at the church and at home was longer and made me bored. And the film ended like it is unfinished. I was like �� yon na yon¿??? Nga nga