Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Distance

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Liza (Iza Calzado) gets a surprise visit from Anton (Nonie Buencamino), the husband she left half a decade ago to elope with her one true love. Asked why he flew all the way from Manila, he tells her that he has come to bring her back home where she belongs. The first few days of the family reunion is tense and filled with awkwardness. Initially reluctant, her younger daughter is quick to open up to her and let her in, but her eldest proves to be quite the challenge. She has not been welcoming at all and is not even making an effort to hide it. As the estranged mother gradually worms her way back into her children's lives, past decisions will come back to remind her that there really is no easy way to bring back trust once it is broken, and that forgiveness can’t be given overnight.

The film’s greatest asset is the pervasive silence that follows each subplot. You can cut the tension with a knife and this keeps you on the edge of your seat because you just don’t know when they are all going to explode. Not everyone is capable of keeping all those pent-up emotions inside. Eventually, a boiling point will be reached. but Distance lingers for a while before it offers its climax. The overall vibe is akin to a gathering storm. Knowing that the potential for devastation is high, you sit back and watch anyway.

Calzado has always had this sort of restrained acting style. She does not have to resort to hysterics that often because what her character wants to say or wants you to feel, she does so with body language. You have to admire that subtlety for the mere reason that it serves as a good pot for the simmering broth of emotional depth that will be served later on. She probably won’t win an award for this portrayal, but nominations would be well-merited.

Buencamino is your example of an ever-dependable supporting actor who can make the lead shine all the more. His take on Anton’s persistence is touching, a testament of unconditional love that nurtures even the most hesitant soul. On one hand you will get to appreciate his efforts and maybe even root for the couple to get back together. On the other hand, you just know that some things can’t be forced and you end up just admiring the refuge these two find in one another.

But the real revelation of the film is Therese Malvar. Playing the role of the daughter scorning her mother, she personifies not just teenage angst, but also the doubt and hesitance of a person left behind. We’ve all been there, now haven’t we? In her you see a broken heart just trying to mend and protect itself from more pain. Her portrayal culminates in a screechy confrontation scene that leaves all the heavy lifting on her shoulders. In the end, she carries that weight and holds her own against Calzado, no less. A legit actress is born.

Distance has been marketed as a family movie, which is what it really is, although one cannot simply dismiss the LGBTQ angle that comes along with it. Not really hinted at on the trailers, this subplot has been spoiled one too many times on social media. The good thing is that even if we tag this film as an LGBTQ flick, it still succeeds in using that plot element as something integral to the storyline itself, not as a gimmick that most narratives nowadays just incorporate for a semblance of social relevance. Even so, there are some scenes that still make the audience feel kind of squeamish, but then again, we are in the Philippines so what’s new?

You will like Distance if you are into films with somber tones and subdued exposition. The title does not allude to anything physical after all, but rather emotional. Just like the characters, you are bound to feel that ubiquitous uneasiness too.

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