no way in

No Way In Joel Lamangan’s Walang Kawala isn’t a very good film. It’s poorly plotted, badly directed, and generally elicits laughs when it’s aiming for tears. All in all, it’s not a great experience, and more than that, it once again reveals the glaring inconsistencies of our ratings board. This has gotten ridiculous.

Joaquin is a fisherman from the province who has been carrying out an affair with his young neighbor Waldo. But Joaquin’s wife returns from Dubai, Joaquin decides to end the affair. Distraught, Waldo runs away from home and goes to Manila. Joaquin soon finds himself unable to think of anything but Waldo, and he goes to Manila to look for him. The clues lead him to a gay bar where Waldo was employed as a dancer, and eventually, to a crooked, wife-beating policeman involved in illegal human trafficking operations. Joaquin follows the trail deeper and deeper, until he finds that he might have no way out.

The story, for all its portrayed perversions, is actually pretty run-of-the-mill. Take it all apart, and it’s just another cautionary tale of a young person from the province getting taken advantage of by big evil people from the city. It’s a well-worn trope, and the movie has nothing to add to it other than gratuitous sex scenes and full frontal male nudity. How this got past the MTRCB when tamer and better films have been given X-ratings is beyond me, but there you go. The story problems don’t end there. A good chunk of the film is told in really clunky flashbacks, which take away from the main action of the film and confuse the timeline. The characters are messy and inconsistent; their development governed more by plot convenience instead of proper psychology. The climax of the film is particularly nonsensical. The way the plot moves the characters to that single point is just baffling.

Joel Lamangan may be working with new technology, but his direction is decidedly old school. His scenes are serviceable at best, lacking visual flair and often overwhelmed by the score. Lamangan has always had problems connecting his scenes, often having to rely on awkward fades that break up the pace of the film, and nothing really changes here. There’s also a general lack of subtlety in the picture, every point hammered down relentlessly, hardly anything left to the imagination (often literally). The performances are a mixed bag. Polo Ravales looks unmotivated for most of the picture, offering little more than blank stares until the third act. Joseph Bitangcol, on the other hand, goes really big and offers no nuance to his performance. Emilio Garcia makes it easy to hate his villainous character, and it mostly works for the picture. There’s an inkling of depth in the character that goes unexplored by the script, however, and that leaves him coming off as one-note. Jean Garcia gets a lot out of her character, despite a lack of good material to really hold on to.

In the end, Walang Kawala doesn’t really say or do much, and comes off as just another excuse to show off a lot of gratuitous sex and nudity. There are going to be a lot of justifications, claims that it’s “art” or that it “has relevance,” but no matter how you wrap it up, that just doesn’t change the fact that the movie is actually bad. It’s baffling that Lav Diaz’s Death in the Land of Encantos was given an X rating (and therefore, was banned from exhibition) because it showed genitalia, while this movie can flaunt its genitalia and get an R18. That’s just not right.

philbert ortiz dy /

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