Sunday, March 28, 2010

Romeo at Juliet (2010, Adolfo Alix Jr)

Director Alix is one of the most prolific filmmakers in the local independent scene. He has made a handful of remarkable films. However, I'm still waiting for him to come up with an extraordinary film that will put him in league with revered filmmakers Brillante Mendoza and Lav Diaz. He just needs to spend more time improving his stories and sprucing up the quality of his films. A few of his films are critically acclaimed such as Adela and Donsol. Sadly, Romeo at Juliet is not among his best.

It is a bad omen when a film starts on the wrong foot. The early credits blended in so well with the background that the film title ended up being unreadable. Maybe the 'missing' title refers to the fact that there are no Romeo and Juliet characters in the movie. The title is just a cunning marketing ploy to haul in curious moviegoers.

The film begins with the birthday of Angel (Alessandra de Rossi). She gets lured into the world of escort services by her friend Menchie (Max Eigenmann). On her first night, she earns a little less than 10,000 pesos. I began wondering what she did to earn big bucks. Was she, errrr, a virgin? A sex machine? Or a great conversationalist?

Subsequent scenes of Angel give us a glimpse of her work but not an iota of her ability to suck in money. There are scenes of sadomasochism that Angel supposedly enjoys. The audience fails to see how much she likes being dominated. Angel just narrates that she loved being abused. De Rossi, handicapped with self-imposed limitations (ie. no torrid kissing, and no nudity), does a lackluster performance as a prostitute. Victor Basa is also not good as Joseph, a doctor-wanna-be who finally gets a girlfriend. When his character witnesses a Hayden Kho-type of a video scandal, his face didn't even register a strong emotion. He also gave an awful performance in the Cinema One film Maling Akala. The actress playing the classy Menchie has a strong screen presence. It must be the genes. Max Eigenmann is a daughter of Mark Gil.

This indie film suggests that parental upbringing plays a big factor in molding character of children. Incest rape pushes Angel to the sex industry. On the other hand, a strong conservative mother turns Joseph into a walking time bomb. Sexual repression will bring havoc to his social life. A mistake by his girlfriend causes Joseph to snap big time.

The characters have a unique way of remembering their past. Memories played on like scenes from an 8 mm film. It is an artistic decision that falls flat. What was the point of that attention calling narrative device?

Romeo at Juliet tries to be different (sometimes too hard) from mainstream romance movies. The story about lost souls searching for love deals with edgy topics such as child abuse and a young man's twisted concept of romance. Below-average acting and some poor directing decisions hinder it from being a memorable movie.

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