Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Don't Lose Your Way: Alagwa (Movie Review)

I know a lot of Kill la Kill fans recognize my title very well. XD

Anyways, I'm here to do a review of one of the most influential films (an indie film, surprisingly, since I'm not very much into those) that I've seen in my entire life. Let's just say, Alagwa connects to my life a lot more accurately than other movies (although most films, anime and shows I've seen always have connections with my current/past life situations anyway, like they're meant for me LOL). 

What's the movie about?


Forgive the quality, I just watched it on CinemaOne. XD
Alagwa (Breakaway) is a dark, twisted tale of a single parent Robert Lim (Jericho Rosales) and his son Brian (Bugoy Carino) as the boy gets unexpectedly lost in a mall and his father strives in desperation to find him. He soon traces his son's whereabouts to a contact person from a child-trafficking syndicate (Smokey Manaloto) and negotiations begin.


 


Basically, it shows the horror and reality of human trafficking, based from the urban legends in Chinatown, Manila. The director got the inspiration when he saw a poster of a missing Chinese-Filipino kid and couldn't get it off his mind. 

Personal Experience



In case you didn't know, I had the same experience when I was young, when I got lost in Festival Supermall, Alabang. The first person that found me was my dad, which is quite parallel to the film's premise. Sometimes, I wonder if it's the same mall in the film or nearby (though not very likely).

Another personal relation is that I have a cousin named Brian (though he's on Canada right now and I guess he's forgotten about me or even all of his cousins, I still hope not). He's only a month older than me and I've only seen him in very very short amounts of time, that's why I don't know much about him.

I also wrote a similar story (though it's a fanfiction) around 2007/2008 which centers around an autistic boy who also got lost in a mall and the ending was also quite parallel. His name was Robert James, which is as if I almost predicted Jericho Rosales' name on the film. XD

Breakdown of Movie Elements


Bullying and Discrimination



The movie gives us the usual insight of a boy struggling to be accepted in his circle of classmates, which later on, unfortunately, caused him to go berserk when they call his dad names like "mukhang squatter (looks like a hobo)" and only riding a pedicab (whereas his classmates have sosyal drivers). I can relate to this very much, because I've been a victim of bullying since birth (mostly because I'm a weirdo who loves cartoons/anime/art/anything out of this world/aliens/etc.) and also because I'm an honor student who's nothing more than a crybaby. On a lot of occasions, I would've done what Brian would've tried to do to his classmates but always tried to control myself because uhh, yeah.

Unjust Society


The fact that Robert called the cops (including Leo Martinez) "sickos just fattening their asses" when they fail to get leads on his son's whereabouts is a nod to the current situation of justice in our society today. 



A lot of people aren't doing their job well, and most people just resort to desperate means (e.g. contacting Smokey in the film).

Child/Human Trafficking


Bullying and child trafficking are quite one and the same in a moral point of view. The show is definitely not for the weak at heart because there's this bald pedophile guy and many child abuse scenes which literally made Echo throw up in the dirty restroom, which leads me to think - what if I was never found in Festival Supermall and got stuck with some dirty, shitty syndicate guy/girl/whatever? Ugh, gross.

(Single) Parenting is Tough



If you think raising kids a couple is already tough, wait 'till you see Echo's top-notch role as a single parent. It's really hard for him because: 1) his job as a sale agent only earns him a few bucks, 2) he has to balance work and parenting, and 3) the economy/society is already in its worst condition. Even though I'm still single, I already feel the pain of having to work and pay for the bills (e.g. Meralco, PLDT and the like) which is no walk in the park, what more if you have to raise a kid properly and balance discipline and affection?


Brian's attitude is of a natural kid's, and his father has no fault with it either. It's just a combo of bad situations in one go, which explains their very unfortunate life. Had Robert gotten better job/pay, he'd no longer have to work like a horse and focus on his parenting skills. 

One thing that I noticed throughout the movie is that because Robert is a single parent, he's two times more paranoid than the average father (I can tell), not just towards his son, but also to everyone else concerned in his son's case. The sad thing is that, because his emotions were uncontrollable (just like Brian when he injured his classmate), things gotten out of his hand, for example: he left his phone so the police found out the syndicate thing, and he went hysterical when his second son got lost in Hong Kong later on (in which he could've just texted him unlike before when cellphones were golden).


But like I said, parents can't be blamed if their kids are in danger. But sometimes, over-protectiveness can also be a bad sign of parenting (I can relate). Remember what Brian said when he went to the bathroom? "Pa, kaya ko na to, binata na ako. (Pa, I'm old enough to do this.) which may indicate that he might be falling into his teenage rebellion years and realizing that his father's kind of too much for him (although I'm very aware that Manila is a hellish place full of bastards right and left so being careful is mandatory).

Nonetheless, the bond between the father and son is just superb (both story-wise and actor-wise).

Anyways, I have a lot to say with this part, but let's cut it so this review won't be too much tl;dr.

Reality is an Ironic Jerk


[Spoiler starts here]

The tearjerker ending (discussed later on), as well as one of the scenes involving Smokey, are among the best examples of the film, as to why reality is indeed a jerk.



In that scene, it's as if your only hope was taken away only by a single mistake, and there's no other chance but to just fade away and die (I can relate too much). That's what Robert definitely felt during that scene. 

Trivia: Smokey was also my childhood favorite actor, started when he played a horse cosplay role in Home Along da Riles (I don't know why either), as well as Echo (his role with Kristine Hermosa in Pangako sa'yo).

Foreshadowing the Film's Ending


Remember when Robert said, "kumain ka nga ng gulay! Kaya hindi mo makita yung picture ng nanay mo...baka malabo na ang paningin mo..." (eat your veggies! Maybe that's why you can't see your mom's picture...your vision might already be blurry...)? How about when Brian, in the fit of rage from being bullied by his classmates, charged his pencil near one of his classmates' eye and almost blinded him?

If you've seen the heartbreaking ending, it all makes sense, doesn't it?





What Robert didn't want to happen to his son came to life like a slap on his face. The ending is not just a tearjerker, but also quite ironic. Nonetheless, it's a good ending, unlike most tragic films I've seen.

The ending has so much effect on me, that I'm actually trying to find that old harmonica (with a Butterfly logo) we had (unfortunately, no luck). And uh...I drew this:


[Spoiler ends here]

Conclusion


Alagwa, like most indie films, is quite obscure in its nature, but hey, I like obscure films and that's what makes stories interesting - the obscurity and the fact that you have to think outside of the box and sometimes, get your heart sweating in tears. Taken was a similar film, but I find this indie film more interesting, because Taken was more of a technical film, and on the other hand, this one jerks up the tear glands and the social awareness part of our brains.

It's also a good eye-opener for us, that child trafficking chooses no one, not even Filipino-Chinese kids, and that reality is always an asshole - we just have to survive with our instinct and the bonds that connect us.


One thing I've learned from the film is to have a secret handshake. You know, for emergency purposes. XD

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