Alagwa (Breakaway) Reaction

This post was first written as a draft last October 2013. I’m only publishing now because I had forgotten entirely that I wrote this.


If you haven’t seen Alagwa, SPOILER ALERT! DON’T READ this! This is a post-film reaction.

I had very high expectations from this film because, no.1, it stars my favorite local actor, Jericho Rosales, whom I consider the best actor in my generation (him and JLC), and 2, it has received very good reviews internationally and locally (here and here). In fact, Alagwa recently won the Best Narrative Feature at the Guam International Film Festival, and Jericho Rosales took home acting honors (Achievement in Acting).

Official movie poster taken from the Alagwa Official Facebook page

After watching this film, I had a “spirited” discussion with my fiance whom I pestered to accompany me. We had different reactions about the film. I loved 4/5 of the film up until the point where one of the character dies. He liked it from the point until the end. Let’s dissect.

As I mentioned, 4/5 of the film focused on the relationship of the father, Robert Lim (Jericho) and his son Brian (Bugoy Carino). Scene after scene, we get to see the father-son relationship evolve in the midst of everyday struggles. The chemistry between Jericho and Bugoy is something truly wonderful to behold. Jericho gives a very powerful performance as a single father struggling to make ends meet, while fated to parent and discipline his child. At the beginning, you kind of hate him for being so hard on his son, and just being cranky throughout, but eventually, you start to mellow down on his character because, you begin to understand that, no. 1, perhaps like many men, tough love is the way he shows his love, and no.2, he is coming from a place of hurt and sadness because he didn’t want to parent alone but he had no choice (wife’s death was alluded during one of their table conversations).

Bugoy, on the other hand, is charming. He plays his character without the hint of forcefulness. One of my pet peeves among child actors in the Philippines is that they don’t sound “real”. They have a way of saying their script in certain tones and intonations which get irritating because it feels so unnatural. With Bugoy’s portrayal, you don’t get that feeling. You genuinely believe that he is just an innocent boy who loves to play and wants to please his dad, and he wasn’t conscious of the camera and all the technicalities of film. He was natural.

This wonderful chemistry between Jericho and Bugoy is one of the highlights of the film. They had scenes where you’d find yourself tearing up because it felt painfully real: Robert was caught up with the responsibility of raising a child to become nothing like him, but he doesn’t know how to do it properly.

The film started to pick up when Brian was kidnapped, and here we see Jericho’s powerful performance at its finest. The desperation by which he portrays his role is so palpable, you can feel just he is ready to explode out of the anguish of losing a son he labored to raise and establish. The heartbreaking reality was that they were on the brink of a breakthrough in their father-son relationship, it had so much promise, and just like that, in one instant, it was gone. Robert goes through extreme means to find Brian, meeting Smokey’s character in the process, and suddenly the film was nearing the end.

I felt like after the massive build-up from the start of the movie, it suddenly went flat – the climax wasn’t enough to sustain the buildup and I felt a bit…emotionally robbed. I don’t know if the director wanted the viewers to “care” or be affected by the death of Smokey’s character, when we weren’t really vested into his character. I wasn’t expecting that that scene was supposed to be the conclusion to the build-up. After that scene, we flash forward to Jericho several years later, but this transition wasn’t emphasized and we only learn later on that the teenager beside him was his second son, and not Bugoy the first son who got kidnapped. Because of this confusion (deliberate, perhaps) I was a bit taken out of the story and I was still trying to reconcile this when the ending suddenly happened. (The ending was heartbreaking).

But I get why critics said this was a powerful film. Because it paints a real picture of the cruelty of human trafficking. Here was this innocent kid, who’s only fault was, perhaps, that we he was born in poverty. Yet his father is the picture of a man who will not allow poverty to dictate what their lives will become. So he disciplines his child and tries his best to instill in him the value of money, of working hard and working for your dreams. The tension in their relationship is natural, even expected, because Robert is constantly battered by the hardships of life. At that point where their relationship started to become better, human trafficking took away all the promise of what they could have been. Brian, we later on find out, lived the next ten years of his life somewhere in Hongkong as a blind beggar, exactly what his father never wanted him to be.

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Reminders from the Book of Eli

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Ephesias 6:10-12

Book of Eli Theatrical Poster (from Wikipedia)

I watched for the first time yesterday the Book of Eli. I think this is a film that will make sense to and be enjoyed more by Christians. I read some reviews after watching the film and true enough, I found that majority of ‘critics’ gave mixed reviews. Well, I think in movies, we are all critics (in one way) and there is not one perfect movie that will please everyone – at the end of the day, it’s about preferences and relevance to the viewer. And for me, I found it very relevant. There are several things I took out from the film as timely reminders for me:

  • How blessed I am to have the Bible freely, while in many countries, the Bible is forbidden. Many times, we take this privilege and freedom for granted. I liked the scene where Solara (Mila Kunis) asks Eli (Denzel) what it was like then (the time before the war, the “flash.”) Eli said,

People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”

  • That the Word of God shall stand forever – No one and nothing will be able to destroy the Bible. Many attempts have been made, many have tried to discredit it and change it, but God’s word will stand.
  • The importance of being strengthened and nurtured by the Word of God everyday. In the film, Eli relied on the book for his daily sustenance – as if his life depended on it. And it did! The book nurtured him and sustained him like it was the air he breathes.
  • (Although in the film it was illustrated rather physically), The Bible gives strength to us to fight our daily battles.
  • We live in two worlds – the physical and the spiritual. And we indeed battle against principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places. This film reminded me to always be prepared.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

  • Like most people who gave me their feedback about the film, the ending was really unexpected and very powerful. I don’t want to give spoilers (although people can just read the summary anyway) but the ending, for me, reminded me and challenged me to put the word in my heart – read it, memorize it, give it all diligence, priority and importance that it deserve. Eli said it perfectly:

Write everything exactly as I say it.

It’s a tall order and it is challenging, but we should all try and do it.

When watching Pixar movies, don’t forget your glasses.

Ah, Toy Story 3. Another Masterpiece from the Master Storyteller that is Pixar. I would have enjoyed it more if I saw the movie like this:

instead of this way (which I did):

…hence defeating the purpose of the entire Pixar experience…

Okay, so maybe not entirely. The storytelling is always great.

Me and my gaussian blur 5 eyes. I didn’t have my glasses, I couldn’t wear contact lenses. Still, I enjoyed it tremendously. Now, just imagine if i did have my glasses… What are you waiting for? Watch it while its showing! It’s definitely in my Top 3 films this year (and we’re only halfway through the year). It’s a story that’s sure to tug at your sentimentality. If not, tickle your seriousness.

Dont forget your glasses! (If you have one)

Karate Kid (Remake): Kicks, Hits, Wins!

If i will grade this movie based on the reactions from my fellow-movie watchers, this movie gets A+. I actually wasn’t surprised that it’s a good, decent film. By the trailer alone, it was exciting and very promising. What i wasn’t expecting was that the film was that close to being really, really good. As in, as good as the original. Hear me!

The original Karate Kid is simply a classic, iconic film everyone should have watched. It’s the type of movie that has you rooting for the protagonist (Daniel played by Ralph Macchio) and you just want the film to have a really good ending. I thought that this film was a worthy remake of the original–it had all the elements working seamlessly.

Jayden Smith (Dre Parker) is the undeniable breakthrough star of this film. You cannot help but root for him. I thought he really did as good an acting job as you can expect from someone his age. He has charisma (thanks Will) and is helplessly likable. You also cannot overlook the preparation behind his role. This kid put in some serious, serious kung fu training! And, seriously, did you see the muscles and even abs from this little kid? ! ( He’s so cute!)

And, ladies and gentlemen, a serious Jackie Chan (Mr. Han). I cant remember the last time Jackie Chan made me want to cry. He brought soul and depth I don’t think I’ve seen from him before and it was a really toned, matured Jackie Chan, a worthy homage to Pat Morita and Mr. Miyagi

As for the movie? Its a certified crowd-pleaser, and it’s the first film I’ve seen this year that made me feel good after. It has a lot of really funny moments (check the “attitude” scenes),  it was well-paced, well-acted and although it has the same elements of the original film, it does well in its own, capturing the essence of the original, that it is an entirely new and current take to this saga.

And in true Karate Kid tradition, whether you like it or not, you find yourself rooting for that expected redemption, that victory, that high you can only get from winning and really kicking ass. This is a real feel-good entertainment we have missed all this year. And since they say every one is a movie critic, then i must conclude I left the moviehouse with very happy critics.

I give this movie a 3.5/4. Go see it now. It will not disappoint.