‘Excuse Me Po’ is an interesting yet untethered tale about a former film extra, Hilda (Elizabeth Oropesa), who uses her talents to scam people for money to support her grandchildren and pay for her husband’s medicine. It’s an interesting concept, a sort of study into the relationship between truth and money and the thin line between acting and lying. There is a strong thematic world at play here that isn’t quite realized by the film’s execution.
Hilda and her world is so well-defined and lays the groundwork for what could be a great story about the redemptive powers of truth. After all, Hilda is not a common criminal. She is a desperate woman without any other means of providing for her family except through her capabilities as an actress and the street smarts she’s learned over the years. She doesn’t take more than her family needs and the little she has left, she generously gives to the people in need around her.
‘Excuse Me Po’ feels untethered because it meanders through the world building of Hilda’s environment and the second narrative, which is that of a writer, Ruel (Matt Daclan), who spots Hilda at work and decides to do a story about her. As defined as Hilda’s world is, Ruel’s world feels hollow and thin. Yet, he has emotional beats, which signals that there is an intention to make him a major character, yet his story is not as fleshed out.
The film is then split into two -- Hilda and the movie in her mind as she tries to rationalize her scamming ways and Ruel and his dream of breaking into the film industry.
The film succeeds when it’s grounded and focused solely on Hilda. Despite her stunted delivery of her dialogue, Elizabeth Oropesa is still a fascinating presence on screen. There is an honesty and an earnestness that connects you to her characters and it’s working at full effect here. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast doesn’t come close. Not even the usually brilliant Chanel dela Torre or Anna Luna, who have very little to do with what they have been given.
‘Excuse Me Po’ suffers from a weak script that awkwardly jumps from scene to scene without really creating a flow for the story. And it is particularly clumsy when moving to the scenes of Ruel and the world of the filmmakers, which serves to slow the story down rather than complete it. The dialogue also tends to over-explain the character’s intentions and motivations, taking away the symbolism from the plot. The theme and the story is laid bare in dialogue that feels inorganic and takes away from the rawness of the cinematography, which is quite strong.
‘Excuse Me Po’ is a film with a strong backbone that would have been served better by a tighter script and better editing choices. It’s a wonderful idea by director and writer Ronald Batallones, but the film itself was just off the mark from realizing its full potential.