Mamang (Celeste Legaspi) lives alone in an old pre-war house in Manila with her unemployed adult son, Ferdie (Ketchup Eusebio). Old age depresses Mamang and all she wants to do is stay in bed and wallow in despair. But every day, Ferdie tirelessly and cheerfully forces her to live life and delay the progress of health and cognitive issues.
As Mamang ferries through time, slowly succumbing to dementia, we gradually discover her backstory through her increasing hallucinations. But both mother and son wonder whether to go back to her doctor—or just keep the hallucinations, because they bring back life and excitement to Mamang’s lonely existence.
Denise O’Hara’s subdued drama-comedy Mamang lightly examines how time ravages one woman’s mind, body and spirit, and a mother’s undying love for her child. Legaspi looks a bit too young to look fragile, but she nevertheless delivers a competent performance as a confused and emotional woman.
Despite the good casting and restrained performances, O’Hara’s film oftentimes feels lackluster. Legaspi’s Mamang is too ordinary to be compelling, and her hallucinations, which give us insight into her losses and longing, are a bit dull.
The movie triggers a few chuckles here and there, and the melancholic moments are a little sad but never painful. The very poor lighting is also distracting, with plenty of morning sequences obviously shot during night time, ruining the crucial sense of time in which Mamang and Ferdie are prisoners of.
Mamang is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s got a nice little twist in the ending. But it’s the kind of film that leaves you lukewarm.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Working at a money remittance center is a wimpy loser man-child, Kuya Wes (Ogie Alcasid), whose mechanical daily routine is only broken every 16th of the month, which is the remittance schedule of his crush, Erika (Ina Raymundo).
When not boxed in the small, sunny remittance center with a female co-worker (Moi Bien) that disapproves of his personal relationship with their regular customers, Kuya Wes gives financial support to his brother’s (Alex Medina) family, who only accommodates him because he pays the bills.
When Erika one day arrives with a predicament, Kuya Wes comes to the rescue — his life suddenly changes, and we can only wait in despair for his inevitable disappointment.
Director James Robin Mayo lenses Kuya Wes at the edges of the frame, a trendy style normally seen in American indies. But while Mayo crisply captures Kuya Wes’s sad life, Denise and Heber O’Hara’s screenplay is flimsy, rendering the characters somewhat one-dimensional.
We’ve seen Kuya Wes’s character numerous times in American films; a low-key drama-comedy and character study of an outcast, a little bit of an Adam Sandler, that aims to tug at your heartstrings. But the paper-thin script prevents you from fully empathizing with Kuya Wes.
Alcasid’s portrait of the optimistic man-child is too calculated and self-conscious and his character’s idiosyncrasies are forced. He makes too much of an effort to sound and walk like a baby, which makes him more irritating than lovable. You mostly feel sorry for him when he’s at home and suffering indifference from his family, but with a character chiefly based on external peculiarity, it’s hard to wholly embrace this unfortunate soul.
2.5 out of 5 stars
PAN DE SALAWAL
(THE SWEET TASTE OF SALTED BREAD AND UNDIES)
Newcomer Che Espiritu writes and directs a fantasy-comedy about a young Visayan miracle worker, the 10-year-old Aguy (Miel Espinosa), who finds herself in a small community by the Manila Railroad where most of the residents are ill.
Aguy’s gift is that she can heal the sick by inflicting physical pain on them—she chokes, beats, slaps, or punches an ailing person and voila! Cured. She then meets an old former pandesal baker, Sal (Bodjie Pascua), who is suffering from a failing kidney, and they become pals.
Espiritu’s magical realism of a film has an interesting premise but feels uneven and contrived. Espiritu never develops Sal and Aguy’s relationship. There is no gradual blossoming of an emotional connection — the old man is just instantly attached to Aguy.
Their “special connection” is unconvincing; they just spend a few times either wordlessly baking pandesal or talking about Aguy’s sleeping arrangements in his home.
The humor is bizarre and shallow and mostly slapstick. The gags compose of Aguy wearing a huge pair of colorful granny panties over her head, her mini-violent actions, and the presence of a former beauty queen (Madeleine Nicolas), who owns said undies.
Various ill characters are portrayed, such as a stroke victim that used to be a folk dancer (Ruby Ruiz), an asthmatic (Anna Luna) infatuated with a meat-shop guy (Felix Roco) and a widower (Soliman Cruz) with a suspicious growth in his left boob. But with weak characterizations, it’s hard to care for these people.
While the film is earnest in illustrating the pain and suffering of illness, and both Espinosa and Pascua deliver committed and competent performances, Pan de Salawal is ultimately unfunny and overtly sentimental.
1 out of 5 stars
The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival runs until 12 August at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and in select Ayala Malls cinemas for a ticket price of P150. Senior and PWD discounts apply.