Directed by Real Florido
Cast: JC De Vera and Janine Gutierrez
This is the fourth movie I’ve seen Janine Gutierrez in and I’m now convinced she can nail any role that is thrown at her. She brings so much honesty into her performances that you forget she just played a different character in her last movie. There’s a very lived-in, natural way about her portrayals that makes her characters seem so real. In ‘Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin?’ she expands her range even further by playing the deaf and mute artist Nat with such bravura that I was absolutely transfixed.
Unfortunately, the film’s narrative structure takes on a non-linear form, which conflates the movie’s story and makes it feel incohesive. There’s the story of the challenges of a deaf-mute person, the toxic relationship she has with her husband Migs (a solid performance by JC De Vera), and the feminist undertones that come from having such an oppressive husband. The narrative jumps in and out of flashbacks and certain narrative points come at a much later time than when they are needed.
Because certain backstory elements aren’t revealed until much later, what we experience in this film is the drama, the after effects, and these don’t grip us or hold on to us because they feel unmotivated. Why are the couple breaking up? How did they get to this point? Was Migs always this controlling? The answers come so much later that by the time that they do, I have already made judgments on certain characters that weren’t warranted or I’m totally disconnected from other characters completely.
The non-linear structure (which is very reminiscent of the film ‘Blue Valentine’ to me) feels more cosmetic than functional. And there are certain storylines that I feel could have been explored (the world and struggles of the deaf and mute community) and a subplot with a farmer’s son, who is also deaf and mute, that Migs wants to teach sign language. While it shows Migs’ savior complex at work, it never really goes anywhere narratively and never really completes that it feels out of place.
There’s a lot of promise in this film but it needs to be able to take all the story elements and bring it back to what seems like the main point of the film, which is to fully explore the deterioration of this couple’s marriage. The film is a great showcase for its two lead actors, though, of how much they can convey without speaking one line of dialogue. If anything, watch it for their performances.
Directed by Roman S. Perez Jr.
Cast: Coleen Garcia, Queenzy Calma, Karl Medina
‘Kaluskos’ is a horror film about a separated couple fighting over custody of their daughter. Career woman Rebecca (Coleen Garcia) has sole custody of her daughter Amaya (Queenzy Calma), which her ex-husband (played by Karl Medina) is fighting to overturn. Rebecca, who is dedicated to her job, is not at all connected to Amaya but will fight tooth and nail to keep her out of spite as her ex-husband cheated on her. But Amaya has begun to exhibit violent tendencies and strange behaviour and Rebecca is discovering that being a mother is a lot harder to do alone.
Director Roman Perez Jr. is in quite a rush to get to the horror that he never really settles down to establish the setting, the characters, and the rules of this world.
We never really get to know Rebecca’s job or how hard she works (it’s always mentioned but we never really get to see it) and because Rebecca never seems to really connect with her daughter, it’s hard for us to believe she really loves her when things start to go awry. We have no idea what Amaya was like before so when she starts acting strange or violent, we don’t know if this is due to the custody battle or if the child had always this issue growing under her, or if this is the effect of some supernatural element that is hinted upon in the film.
In fact, the film is in such a rush to get to it that there are scenes when foreboding music is already at play in some normal, mundane scenes. In other moments, the camera is already angled in a peculiar way to suggest someone is watching, hidden, but the scene doesn’t really call for it.
Without grounding the film in its setting and its world, Rebecca’s descent into madness feels rushed and not properly motivated. There are also quite a number of imagery and narrative elements that seem arbitrary. There’s a dream sequence of Rebecca on a boat, floating near the shore and she sees her daughter under the water but this image has no real connection to the story or the supernatural element that is uncovered as the story unfolds.
The world seems small, operating only within the mechanics needed for the film to move forward and this is what makes ‘Kaluskos’ struggle to find its fear factor. I don’t see this happening to me or anyone around me. Detached from the real world, ‘Kaluskos’ seems to be an isolated story that is just there for Rebecca and Amaya. It never really turns their custody battle or Rebecca’s maternal issues as something universal and it makes the film feel small.
Cinemalaya 18 runs until August 14, 2022. at the CCP, and will hold screenings at select Ayala Malls Cinemas and SM Cinemas until August 16, 2022. Online streaming is scheduled for October 2022.
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