Friday, June 04, 2010


Poorly Executed but Socially Relevant
By Reymundo Salao

I actually hated this movie initially because it seemed like a blatant propaganda for Noynoy Aquino. Even though I did vote for the guy, I felt that the country should take a break from any partisan propaganda for a while. Hearing another form of partisan media feels like as if being fed the same awful meal you vomited just a while ago. That was why I was not feeling positive about this movie at first.

NOY tells the story of a young man named Noy who comes from a poverty stricken family, what with a widowed mother who works as a manicurist, a paralytic older brother, and a kid sister still in her elementary years. In order to help his family survive out of poverty, Noy pretends to be a journalist. The story is set in the very recent time, that is, during the campaign period for the 2010 national elections, and Noy who is acting as a journalist has as his beat the presidentiable Noynoy Aquino. In a very raw documentary fashion, Noy along with a camera (and usually with a cameraman as companion) follows Noynoy Aquino’s plight as a presidential candidate, and goes along wherever his campaign takes him. But side by side his mission to make a really good video for his media company, Noy also comes home to face the challenges brought forth by their family in dealing with a miserably poverty stricken life.

But 20 minutes into the movie I was already loving it for the social relevance and the questions it poses. The cinematography was topnotch, with shots that are artfully done and makes creative use of the visual impact of the slums. Kudos also to the music which perfectly captures the mood of the story all throughout the movie. Halfway into the movie, I was actually impressed about the questions that it poses and the reality it exposes. The realities that the typical everyman Filipino (usually living within the poverty line) usually does not immediately give much of a damn who becomes president, because what only matters is the interest of his family. It's a bitter reality, but genuine nationalism is really quite rare, and usually it is the law of "every man/woman for her/himself (or his/her family)" that prevails. I love the exchange between the character of Noy (Coco Martin) and his editor (Baron Geisler) and how he attempts to enlighten Noy's uneducated views on society and politics, but eventually is greeted by stubbornness. I love that the main character is one who is sort of a jerk and an annoying idiot, but one that mirrors many of us, and that we expect his character to eventually have a point of enlightenment in the movie. I also love the metaphorical reflection of Noy's family to what is going on in the Philippines (and in many of Filipino families struggling to survive poverty), I also found depressingly fascinating the bleakness of the setting of Noy's home, a slum area in Metro Manila which is now seemingly a permanently flooded area, as an effect of the Typhoon Ondoy flood calamity that struck in 2009. Halfway through the movie, there were some minor awkwardly edited sequences, but it never did demoralize the movie...yet.

The second half of the film, on the other hand, was just a mess. After setting up some interesting points and questions, up from there, the movie looked like it went to various directions at a horrible pace. Many of the questions opened by the first half felt unanswered without any decent closure. It was not at an intentional manner but one that reveals the clumsiness of the scriptwriting and the direction. There is a scene where a child does a sort of "history background monologue" which would have been a really nice touch to the movie, but its editorial location in the movie felt misplaced.

The editing along with the direction was a disaster. There is no fluidity in the progression of the movie. One example that stands out is the gad-awful love story in the movie. Why is there even a love story subplot in here that is needlessly spotlighted? That was the first major fail-bomb that crippled the movie. The director obviously does not know how to shoot a love story because what I saw in there was a mixture of corny dialogue, corny acting, and an overall corny execution as to how the scenes should work out. I felt like I was watching a parody of an over-sentimental romance telenovela. The movie started to stink like manure when all of a sudden a torrid love scene occurred in the middle of this film which, by the way, should be a socio-political drama.

The film did not succeed on giving ample background on the other details of the movie. There wasn’t much explanation why the area where Noy lives in is in a flooded state. Sure, we are aware of this right now, but audiences of this movie who are from other places outside manila or from another country or is watching this movie 15 years from now might be rendered clueless as to this background detail. Giving your audience background information is important in filming a movie like this which attempts to define the current reality situation. It was also not clear as to how Noy got into pretending as a media man. It felt like it relied on an audience who has already read the synopsis or seen the trailer. An audience who has not read or seen the trailer may not have a full understanding of what is going on in this movie.

In the first half I could understand the relevance as to why this was shot side-by-side the Noynoy Aquino campaign for presidency, but as the film went on, that link got lost, and the movie began to lose its consistency in effect. The epilogue tries to explain the link, but by that time, the audience may have already realized that they seem to have just been making $h1t up as they went along.

The real meat of the story really lies on the plight of Noy's family struggling to rise from poverty, and the problems and miseries that haunt them. What is being shown in this movie does happen in real life. But the problem is that the film was not subtle in depicting it. During the lowest, most depressing part of the movie (when Noy and his brother argue over something), the main characters are suddenly being bombarded with problems that seem to have ridiculously popped up out of nowhere at the same time with a lack of basis to support the problem's existence. It felt like it diverted from making an honest depiction of harsh realities and exposed itself as an obvious attempt to make its audience cry.

But sure, there were moments that did manage to make my eyes watery. Because even though the execution of the story was bad, this was still a story of the Filipino people. And apart from other movies that pretend to be nationalistic or relevant, I could tell that this one had some sincerity in it. As a critic I should point out the movie’s flaws, but I’m sure that other people will love this movie despite its technical flaws. Not many people are really keen on the technicalities, that is why I still consider this a movie that I can recommend. To the naive, this serves as an eye opener to the bleak shadows of society, and this also serves as a prayer that hopes that a new administration will solve these bleak aspects of society.

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