MY WEEK IN FILM: Dunkirk / Beautiful Pain / Patay na si Hesus / Kíta Kità (Aug. 5-12, 2017)

To shake things up around here, I’m gonna write bite-sized reviews of the films I’ve seen per week. I hope I can do this on a regular basis.

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1. Dunkirk (2017)

Welcome to Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus. Rid of his usually heavy dialogue that either makes for a complex (and sometimes perplexing) experience, Nolan instead focuses on inducing the unnerving experience of being in war told through different perspectives that deliciously come together in key moments.

Opting to not focus on a specific individual as the ‘one’ protagonist recalls this daring move also employed in Paul Greengrass’ United 93. This makes for a discomforting experience of always being on-the-edge, largely helped by the immersive sound design, exhilarating cinematography, and perhaps one of Hanz Zimmer’s most experimental scores: a musical piece that never stops, always deliciously building the tension in variously effective ways.

It all comes together with the incendiary editing of the intricate structure of the plot that bleeds one moment into the other, resulting to an unbearably tense and gripping experience. Props to its impeccable casting of actors, ranging from acting royalties, art-house favorites, unknown faces, and young celebrities.

This might just be Christopher Nolan’s best film. Talk about experiencing war and witnessing how each cinematic element comes together and overwhelms the audience in the best possible way.

Grade: A
Random Fact: This is my first experience in watching a film in IMAX. Wow.

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2. Beautiful Pain (2016)

This Malaysian submission to the 89th Academy Awards is a poignant look at a couple with different coping mechanisms when they discovered that their son is diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder.

I have to say it immediately: I so wanted to love this film. Films about autism is rare, and the thing that I was looking for in this one is authenticity. For the first half of the film, I am drawn to it. Something happens mid-way (I won’t spoil), and the film suddenly lost its footing in terms of tone. In its entirety, the film run the gamut of emotions from realistic to cheesy to grim to idealistic to sentimental. In a normal film, I’d immediately dismiss the film as ‘tonally incoherent’. But you know what? It kinda works.

Partly because the mess of emotions feels realistic (probably hard to explain this to people without first-hand experience), but the emotional shifts are all grounded on reality. I would’ve hated the presence of the helpful friends, cooperative strangers, and judgmental people – and to a certain extent, the film is guilty of these – but you know what? It feels real, and that’s what matters to me. Kudos to the actors for portraying the delicate relationships within the family with visible honesty.

Grade: B
Random Fact: My grade is very subjective; others might go for B- or C+. My younger has autism and I know how the experience. The film gets it, even if it struggles to find the right tone at times.

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3. Patay na si Hesus (eng. Jesus is Dead) (2016/17)

There is so much more in this film than its controversial title. Centering on a Cebu-based dysfunctional family led by hardworking matriarch Iyay, they embark on a cross-island road trip to visit the wake of Iyay’s former husband named Hesus.

The acting ensemble is top-notch. Jaclyn Jose proves herself to be a great actress if given the right material (see her Cannes-winning turn in Ma’Rosa for another proof; 2016 was indeed her year). Chai Fonacier, Bernard Catindig, Mailes Kanapi, and Melde Montañez make this film an idiosyncratic delight, relishing on the ridiculousness of life, death, and everything in between.

However, one must acknowledge how extremely well-written this film is. The film goes to all sorts of humor that are all seamlessly weaved together, forming a narrative that is filled with gags that serve the story, building jokes to progress the plot. The film also gracefully changes tones while still maintaining an over-all air of irreverence that make for a delightful watch.

Grade: B+
Random Fact: I think this is my first experience watching a predominantly Visayan-language film. More non-Manila centric films, please.

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4. Kíta Kità (eng. I See You) (B-)

Currently sitting as the highest grossing independent film in the Philippines, there is so much hype going around this film. The film tells the story of  Lea and Tonyo, two neighboring OFWs based in Japan who form a friendship while Lea is suffering from temporary blindness.

Sold as a romantic comedy, the film oozes with likability for at least 2/3 of it. Its asset are undoubtedly the chemistry of its leads. De Rossi, known for her art-house success as well as her larger-than-life antagonists in TV, and Marquez, an unlikely fit for the ‘leading man’ type, spark something that is inherently charming. I’m not a fan of the writing, but I do get the charm. Add in the cinematography and music that makes this film relaxing to watch and you have a film that amply gives its focus to its two likable leads…

… until it reaches its final third. It’s an unexpectedly dark and scary and makes us question what the film really is about: was it an innocent exploration of how serendipity works in love? Or is it a glorification of stalking? Was the sweetness intended to mislead us for the reveal to have a stronger impact, or was the filmmakers misled themselves in proposing the sweetness within stalking?

I’m still feeling my way through this dilemma. What’s clear is that the film is more tragic than romantic. That’s why after watching the film, I was not buying the it as a romance but as an unexpectedly somber look at defeated characters. But then again: what’s with all the fuss?

Grade: B-
Random Fact: I’m in love with KZ Tandingan’s rendition of the theme song.

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