Review: Miracle in Cell No. 7

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Let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, I know Aga Muhlach issued statements that echoed DDS sentiments and he is on our boycott list. And yes, it is hypocritical that I watched his movie given the boycott. In my defense, there are decent people in the cast and the director is also a good guy so it kinda balances things out… or so I tell myself. I am leaving it at that before I trip over myself trying to justify this.

There is so much buzz in social media about the Filipino remake and it was hard not to get curious. After all, it is not every year that a film can go head-to-head with a Vice Ganda movie in the box office. I have not seen the Korean original but I am aware of its immense popularity. Watching the remake, it is easy to see why. Miracle in Cell No. 7 is a heart-tugging tale of family, friendship, love, and the kind of injustice that is all too familiar wherever you are in the world (we will get back to this in a bit and warning – it gets political).

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Review: Write About Love

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Write About Love, for better or worse, is a story about the creative process. It is also a will-they/won’t-they romantic comedy about a veteran and a newbie film writer who are assigned to collaborate to complete an unfinished relationship story.

It all seems pretty mundane but the film starts to take off as soon as the writers begin to reveal bits and pieces of themselves that are reflected in their characters’ lives and the decisions that they make. While the writing isn’t necessarily Shakespearean, the connections we make between the writers and their writing become quite immersive. It is like being given an inside scoop into somebody’s life, a CliffsNotes interpretation as to why the characters in a story do the things that they do and so we become invested, eagerly waiting for the next chapter.

Write About Love shows us that writing isn’t just relaying what you already know. Good writing can take a life of its own – free from the writer’s judgments and justifications. Just like in real life, we relinquish control and let the story go to places that we are not prepared to face. If we are lucky, it can lead us to grow and to looking deeper within ourselves until we realize that pain is a necessary part of life and love. And emerging from that pain can hopefully take us to where we want to go.

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Review: Citizen Jake

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Citizen Jake is an important film in today’s Pilipinas.

It is a bleak but necessary look at the cycle of abuse and power in the country. It confronts the audience with blatant truths disguised as fiction and offers no way out nor redemption for the characters.

There are no good guys in Citizen Jake. Not even Jake. The film shows us that the people we may regard as evil may be motivated by some sick sense of love for country and are doing what they think is necessary. It shows us that we are all haunted by the ghost of a political past. We are abandoned by our heroes. We are bred from a system that tells us that there is an inescapable divide between a master and a slave; where justice is unattainable. We watch helplessly as life is drained out of our country because we are held down by our own sins. And in the end, just like in real life, it is the little people that always end up dead and fucked.

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Review: Ang Nawawala

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Tagged by some critics as a bourgeois-juvenile film and criticized for unapologetically representing the middle-upper class society, Ang Nawawala is actually a beautiful depiction of a young man’s attempt to rejoin a life that has been marred by a death in the family. It is a refreshing departure from movies that exploit and dwell on poverty and from the biased, one-sided way of thinking that seems to believe that this is the only reality that matters.

The film tells the story of the quiet conflict within a family and how this conflict can sometimes be so deafening that we try and cope by retreating within ourselves. It is a universal theme that is much more relatable than the million and one stories told of a person that clings on prostitution, gets involved in crime or sells their children for money. In not so many words, Ang Nawawala tells a story of an attempt to salvage a life by finding solace in friends, losing yourself in the random things that life has to offer and that liberating power of love that makes us forget our worries and ails even for a short time. For most people, regardless of social standing and whether their problems are real or imagined, this film depicts their life. This is not a mere glorification of a lifestyle, it is a life that we have lived at one point or another.

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Review: Milk

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“I am 40 years old and I haven’t done a thing that I’m proud of.” So says Harvey Milk at the eve of his 40th birthday when he and his then lover decided to move to San Francisco to start a new life together. It is a move inspired by a need to be able to get away from the ‘hate’ that is all too familiar even at present when we, as a society, have supposedly progressed.

Milk tells the story of one of America’s first openly gay public officials who embattled oppression and inspired thousands of gay men and women all across the US to recognize their value and self-worth. This is a story of a man who remained unfazed against all the moralist judgment flung by people who disguise bigotry as an act of God. It is a masterful presentation of a man and a movement in a city where police brutality is described as an imposition of God’s laws and how one person who stood up for the rights of those that are like him risked his own life to get his message across.

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