I was in tears 15 minutes into the film and maybe the rest of the audience was in agreement, too, because people can’t seem to get over it even while we lined up to buy tickets for the next film. I had a chance to chat with the brother of the owner of Barbara’s, the official caterer, over lunch and insider information says this was CCP people’s “emotional favorite”, whatever that means. I mean, undeniably, the emotional pull was just too much to ignore. The tears were both for the sadness and the joy, the fall and the triumph of the film. Wait, I’m getting carried away. I should be mean, but I can’t help it. Lead actor, Ron Capinding who plays James Masino, is a natural! Short, almost frail looking, he has the deep voice and the strong resolve of an actor who has taken over his character completely. You cannot not commiserate with his character – an artist who found out he was afflicted by Guillain-Barré Syndrome, autoimmune disease which would make him a paralytic for life and thus make him stop painting, his only reason for being.
I digress here for a bit. GBS is supposed to be an ascending paralysis, but the film showed James showing weakness in his right hand first before he was shown falling in the latter part of the film. Respiratory weakness is also very common in half of the cases (but not a hallmark) and yet James was able to run around the island with the girl, Emma (GMA7’s Glaiza de Castro) without succumbing until after the day was done making an audience member remark, "Ayan, pinagod mo kasi!". Now moving on…
James decides to go to his friend’s vacation house on a far-away island to say farewell to his family (by leaving behind three paintings dedicated to them) and die. He actually meant to do the latter by slashing his right wrist, but he never comes around to doing it. The struggle is clearly evident and registers pretty well on Ron’s countenance. The audience feels a mixture of emotions ranging from awa to doing the fighting back for the character.
All these frustrated attempts to end his life, well, ended when Emma arrives at the guest house. She cleaned after James, cooked breakfast, questions his art and his views of art (“Kapag hindi malungkot, hindi art!” is one of James’ most memorable lines but this depends on one’s persuasions).
Anyway, to cut the story short, both had the chance to open, enter, and share each other’s live so much so that in the end, James thanks Emma for saving his life.
If you think this would end happily like some tragic stories do (say, isn’t that an irony?), you are completely mistaken. A twist in the story ensues when a flashback showed Emma running after a baby rattle – that of her baby which she gave up for adoption by the very doctor who stopped her from having it aborted – and got hot by a bus and was sped to the hospital. In a parallel universe technique meant to show two events happening concurrently, James was discovered half-dead on the island (he eventually decided to cut his wrist after all) and he wakes up to his sleeping mother beside him. The mother turns out to be Irma Adlawan, the same doctor who adopted Emma’s son!
Turned out, James had been fighting a long, long battle with GBS. Like most artists, there is the angst – a de rigueur among the lot, so it seems – that has made him decide to end it all because what’s the point of living if he couldn’t paint anyway? The raison d’etre would have been lost. Emma turned out to be the same young woman who gave up her baby to Irma Adlawan, and died of the same bus accident in 1976 (James probably was around 35 in this setting) hence making Emma James’ mother – a blast from the past where Emma “returns” to her son to save him just as she promised to return to him 35 years or so ago but was cut short by the accident!
Fantastic, ‘di ba? Grabe talaga ang storytelling style ni Katsky! Panalo!
Kudos to Glaiza for breaking expectations (I was half expecting acting a la Starstruck) and coming up with a moving portrayal of Emma, the most important character in this film because of the pivotal role she was to play later on. I sure would love to see her in future film projects. Very soon, I hope.
I have no regrets choosing STILL LIFE over SINUNGALING NA BUWAN which I am sure has its merits as well pero I’d rather have this than trouble myself with three love stories in SINUNGALING. The only remaining two questions I had were, first, will this film cross over to mainstream? I seriously doubt it because Ron Capinding is a veritable unknown to the larger viewing public (but then again, so was Nathan Lopez of Maximo Oliveros!). Will the excellent story and word of mouth carry it over to the other side? I pray to God this will be so. The second question is how did this film affect my life? That deserves its own blog entry, he he he!
Ron, as I soon found out, is an actor pala of Tanghalang Ateneo (‘di ba member din si blogger Mcvie nito?) and has played a wide range of roles from Romeo (in Romeo and Juliet, 1992) to a maniac (Anarkista, 2006). This very well explains his great acting in STILL LIFE. Even Neil Ryan Sese didn’t have this great a debut in Aishite Imasu (2004) where he conveniently disappeared among the cast as a Japanese guard, and he wasn’t even the star of the show in Maximo Oliveros either. Sad. Another Jaclyn Jose in the making, underrated and unappreciated. Oi, huwag naman sana po. Saying ang talent.
Anyway, we can only watch and wait for more good news for STILL LIFE. It definitely is up against ENDO and TUKSO for the Best Film plume. I am dying of anticipation!
Katrina Flores, you are so up there together with Auraeus Solito, Jon Red, Paolo Villaluna, Ellen Ramos, Mark Meily, Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil and the rest of the next generation of Philippine film greats!
Mabuhay po kayo! Sana bumalik po kayo next year!
Photo & stills credits: Glaiza de Castro Official Site
Coming up next on Radioactive Adobo: A sleeper film to close the festival.