Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Pagbalik

♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

A single mother in her 50’s, Rica (Suzette Ranillo) comes back to the Philippines after getting Trump’d. Working as a caregiver in the United States, she has been deported and is given no other choice but to come back to the motherland. Given the financial hardships involved in staying in the country without a well-paying job, she is already considering the possibility of becoming an OFW again, applying for a similar job in the UK this time around. Her mother Choleng (Gloria Sevilla) is getting harder and harder to deal with as she gets older, while her son (Vince Ranillo) has devoted most of his adult life taking care of his grandmother instead of living his own. As the days go by, the trio soon realize that coming back is not all about hugs and smiles, but also entails a lot of effort in adjusting to a new reality brought about by a long time of absence.

The film is shot in black and white and the first few scenes prove to be promising, making you believe that this is going to be an artistic visual treat. Unfortunately, this little spark of creative license is not sustained as the movie delves into technical deficiencies. Whatever they were planning to do with the sound system did not translate well from planning to execution and the result resembles a dated soap opera from the 70’s or 80’s that the crew did not even bother to remaster. And then you have the cliché storyline.

While the OFW story will always be part of most Filipino family’s history, we already hear and witness so much about it in real life that watching the same story unfold on film seems reductive at best. Unless you have a big budget, popular love teams or stars to headline the project as well as a setting somewhere abroad that gives the audience a free field trip without leaving their seats, then there really is no convincing people to watch something similar but with less mass appeal. In this regard, Pagbalik pales in comparison to other OFW stories already immortalized on film.

The movie scores some brownie points for some aspects, though, like the choice of language. The dialogues are all in Bisaya and we get to see some local tourist attractions along the way because of its setting down south. Perhaps this is what sets it apart from other OFW narratives which are almost always set in the capital, at least the parts where the protagonists come back from their sojourn abroad.

Ranillo is obviously a newbie and his lack of acting experience wouldn’t have mattered given that this is an indie film with a niche audience. However, one can’t help but notice the inadequacy mainly because he finds himself acting next to Sevilla and Ranillo, who are already veterans in the industry. As such, you get a weird mix of ensemble acting that doesn’t go unnoticed. This says a lot given how the character is not even given that much material to work with aside from two crying scenes that are not even that long.

It’s the elder Ranillo and Sevilla who carry the film with their mother and daughter banter. There is palpable rapport between the two, maybe because they are indeed mother and daughter in real life. The way they look at one another is already a conversation without the necessity for words. They manage to sustain the plot when they are onscreen but even then, they can only do so much given the repetitive subplots and dragging pace of the narrative. At least we can see them trying and doing their best.

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