August 27, 2012

Ang Nawawala (Cinemalaya 2012)

ANG NAWAWALA (What Isn't There) by Marie Jamora 

"You like your men the way you like your comic books. With a lot of issues." 

The story revolves around Gibson (Dominic Roco), a seemingly normal guy who has a camera permanently attached to his hand, taking photos and videos. But his biggest oddity is, he doesn't speak, at all. He isn't deaf, isn't mute. He just chose not to talk, after witnessing a tragic accident in his childhood, which effect is also prominent in the tension looming over his family. Just coming home from the States for the holidays, he meets the charming Enid (Annicka Dolonius), and suddenly finds himself falling in love. 

My first reaction was, "It's so good, it's like all my favorite books and movies rolled into one!" Yes, I enjoyed it that much. Gibson's character somehow reminded me of the bewildered Charlie from Perks of Being A Wallflower, and how the entire story feels like it was taken from a "coming-of-age" kind of book.

I loved that it didn't follow the usual indie film "format" wherein the story focuses on poverty and other social issues. The story and the character's lifestyle were very relatable. Gibson's family belongs to the upper class, living in a 70's themed house (the set was put together quite nicely) with uniformed maids and drivers. Wes, the cheerful dad, (Garovillo) wears long sleeved polos and bowties, while Esme, the mother (Dawn Zulueta) is beautiful and elegant, but is noticeably aloof. Then there's the older sister Corey, and the youngest of the family, Promise. 

As expected from Marie Jamora, who has directed several music videos for local bands, her debut film features music from a lot of indie bands such as Ang Bandang Shirley, Ciudad, Outerhope, Hannah + Gabi, The Strangeness, Tarsius and more. The carefully picked out songs are superbly synchronized, providing the perfect backdrop to the scenes.

Gibson finds his niche through his childhood friend Teddy, and together, they go to several gigs all over different places in the metro, which is reminiscent of Quark Henares' film, Rakenrol. You'll be able to recognize Route 196, Saguijo, Shift (that resto bar just across Saguijo) and B-Side in The Collective. This also reminded me of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a boy and a girl driving around the city, listening to music; but instead of looking for Where's Fluffy, Gibson and Enid search for something deeper. 

The movie has a lot of memorable scenes, pop culture references, and clever little quirks that will make you (and your heart) smile.

One of these shows Gibson and Enid in a shop in CubaoX, getting to know each others' interests not by talking, but by flicking through vintage records. No words, just music and vinyl record cover arts. Next scene, Enid is stuck in traffic and Gibson calls her on the phone, just so she can hear the band playing her favorite song ("Di Na Babalik" by Ang Bandang Shirley). Gibson also uses music to tell Enid how he feels about her, as he lip-synches and dances to Apo Hiking's "Anong Ibig Mong Sabihin". 

There were also references to Margot Tenembaum (Wes Andersen!) and The Adventures of Tintin in one scene, as Enid babbles on, and Gibson uses his iPhone Notes app to communicate.

(I hope I didn't ruin the movie for anyone with all my spoilers, I just couldn't help it, these scenes just made me go Awww :))

The story also captures the precious moments of falling in love, and how the simplest things are magnified. This particular scene, (as shown in the photo above) is one of my favorites, where Gibson and Enid exchange headphones and music they wanted to share with each other. Cue in the long gazes, reading each other's body language, holding hands, and sharing that comfortable silence. The movie shows that even sharing an orange Twin Popsies and hanging out at a 7-11 can be really sweet. All these little things prove that sometimes, actions do speak louder than words.

For a film with very little dialogue, Ang Nawawala has managed to deliver a compelling, poignant story about love, loss, letting go, and moving forward.

P.S. This is a long shot, but I seriously wish they'd release it on DVD.
P.P.S  I got a limited edition Ang Nawawala Soundtrack Vol.1 the second time I watched it in UP!

***All video still photos from the Ang Nawawala official website.

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