Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Pansamantagal

♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Agnes (Gelli de Belen) escapes from her toxic relationship by seeking refuge at a beach paradise. There she meets an intrusive resort staff (DJ Chacha) and a man who goes by the name of Leo (Bayani Agbayani). Her friend suggests that she read a book called Pansamantagal, written by author Kiko Rivera (Edgar Allan Guzman) who apparently committed suicide because of a broken heart. Intriguingly so, the storyline of the novella seems to mirror her own, as if it were her current dilemma committed to paper. Meanwhile, the matriarch of a comic book publication (Perla Bautista) and her assistant (Ronnie Lazaro) reminisce about the bygone era when their business was in full swing. Hanging by a thread, their only source of hope was the deceased author. As they all skim through the pages of his last best-seller, they begin to discover how the human condition can bring people together, regardless of their status in life.

Narrated by Rivera himself, the plot unfolds through the chapters of his book. There is an air of mystery as to how the characters are all connected to the novel itself. This is further reinforced by the constant back and forth between the events at the beach and those at the publication house. It keeps you guessing, which is an effective way to sustain interest. However, there are many clues that this is just a case of lost storytelling. It feels gimmicky that way.

There are also many hints that one of them might be the novelist after all, just hiding under a pseudonym. As for Agnes, this is because of the parallelism between her life and that of the book’s main character, which seems to be in first person point of view written from a female perspective. For Leo, it has something to do with the symbolism of him always picking up torn pages of the novel’s chapters along the beach. This gimmick sustains the film for a while but doesn’t quite save the day in the end.

The twist is broken to you gently but not unpredictable at all. It feels like a cop out to be honest, but to give credit where it’s due, it does make you think about how society affects the way we view ourselves as well as how we present a different version of our persona to different people for some intended effect. It banks on the theory that everything is just a game of appearances, the ironic thing being unable to rejoice in your success because it is deemed as somehow borrowed. Other than that, the narrative feels like a potboiler at best.

Acting-wise, there are interesting pros and cons here. De Belen is a veteran in the comedy genre, but perhaps her long absence in film has been a disadvantage to her. There are moments where her sudden bursts of emotions seem premeditated, the type that you would normally see in sitcoms. Agbayani, on the other hand, still relies on his own brand of comedy which is now past its due date. His drama scenes are awkward despite what should have been an easily relatable character build-up.

The result is a whiny and, to some extent, preachy material that does not quite hit the mark. Perhaps it also has something to do with the dialogues? The nonchalant mention of the Tagalog word for dick is effective for trailer purposes because it catches your attention, but when you finally see the film and hear it dropped every other minute, it just feels like a sad excuse for lack of decent screenplay. Whatever substance that could have been derived from the experience unfortunately drowns in that shallow pit of crassness and vulgarity.


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