Cinema has always been a force made up of action and dialogue, visuals and set pieces. But it’s easy to forget that cinema is also a force made up of silence; the stunning pause between lines and the lingering black between scenes.
Silence in cinema, it seems, is as powerful as it is unnoticed.
And also so happens to be the resounding trait of Ang Nawawala’s main character, Gibson.
Ang Nawawala follows the story of Gibson Bonifacio (Dominic Roco), a young twenty year old bound by his own personal vow of silence. It’s been ten years since his last uttered word, and it has been a major cause of concern for both his family and his friends.
When Gibson comes home after a three year hiatus abroad, he discovers his family as fragile as ever. Unwilling to confront the issues plaguing his family, Gibson finds solace in the company of Enid Del Mundo (Annicka Dolonius) who, quite literally, steals the words right out of his mouth.
Ang Nawawala is easily a film that speaks about the things that go unsaid among friends, among family, and among lovers. At the same time, it talks about the loudness of life, of love and the connections that ring through our ears long after the original sound has faded away.
It is through Gibson that we watch and listen to the world of the film reveal itself. And it is through Enid that we see Gibson begin to relive the life he had once left behind.
Despite being robbed of words, Gibson and Enid find a lasting connection through music – the unwritten character of the film. The film’s soundtrack is as wonderful as it is effective; guiding us through Gibson and Enid’s love story, but never prompting us with cues and misdirection.
Director Marie Jamora guides us through this tale of boy-meets-girl just as one would through a mixtape to their highschool sweetheart. It’s a love story that sometimes drips of youthful saccharine, but is painfully effective at unearthing the honest simplicity of what we want in love – someone who’ll listen to us.
Ang Nawawala is beautifully distracting, which can be taken as a point for or against the film, depending on which side of the fence you choose to sit.
It’s easy to spot the films that have influenced Jamora’s visual style, but to dismiss her influences as “hipster” and “distracting” would be tantamount to disregarding most indie films for being “handheld” and “slow”. The film even spends a line to call itself out on its own trendiness.
Still, the film does tread the fine line of being overstylized, but Jamora never loses sight of the story she wants to tell.
Despite the clear temptation to lead off into any of the film’s other genuinely interesting characters, the film galantly sticks to the story of Gibson.
Strangely enough, Jamora’s film lacks any real sense of conflict, which does run the risk of having Gibson seem youthfully immature at times. But that is exactly where Jamora’s direction, the strength of the scenes, and the power of the cast’s performances truly shine.
We become anchored to the fate of the Bonifacio family and to the unspoken words of Gibson Bonifacio. We wish them nothing less than happiness, just as we would our own family.
Although Ang Nawawala is one part family drama, one part coming-of-age film and one part love story, Jamora does a remarkable job of balancing each of those parts into a cohesive whole. There is a startling clarity to the film’s narrative that culminates in an ending that is as satisfying as it is moving.
Unlike most family dramas, Jamora sidesteps the tired convention of screaming relatives and drawn out exposition. There are no long winded speeches over tears, and no exhausted tirades about broken childhoods. At the risk of sounding ironic, these are the benefits of having a main character that doesn’t talk. But irony aside, there is a quietness to the film’s climax that most other dramas would benefit from having.
In the end, Ang Nawawala is a film that is anything but silent. Instead, there is a resounding loudness to it that hopefully doesn’t end in this excellent feature film debut.
PARA SA TAMAD MAGBASA:
Audiences might dismiss the film as nothing more than upper-middle class hipster trite. But to do so would be to miss out on a debut film that is both genuinely funny, moving and sincere.