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Ang Nawawala

12:39 am PHT

At times it felt too long, and I find the premise a bit implausible, but Marie Jamora’s Cinemalaya film Ang Nawawala is easily the best film I’ve seen so far this year.

When I read Philbert’s 4.5-star review of the film and then a friend’s declaration on Facebook saying “I guarantee it will be one of the best films you’ll see this year”, I knew that I had to see the movie. And so I hauled my ass off to SM Megamall last Sunday just so that I could watch the film (since it was only screening in Megamall that day). And oh it was so worth it. I can definitely see why it got the Audience Choice in the New Breed category of Cinemalaya.

The film tells the story of Gibson Bonifacio (Dominic Roco), a twenty-year-old guy who has elective mutism due to a traumatic event he witnessed during his childhood. His family, also affected by the event, is a bit dysfunctional, with the dad (Boboy Garovillo) awkwardly trying to be cheerful while the mom (Dawn Zulueta) being cold and distant.

Gibs, as our protagonist is called, seeks escape from this environment by traveling and studying outside the country, or going out on gimiks with his friends in Manila, or when at home, by locking himself in his room to smoke pot or to listen to music on his vinyl collection. He also looks through the world through his camera, capturing scenes of everyday life as if as a shield that lets him stay withdrawn from the world.

After three years of being abroad, he returns home for the holidays with his mother simply greeting him, “you’re late”. Then while out checking out Manila’s underground scene with his best friend, he meets this girl named Enid (Annicka Dolonius) who shares his interest in music. With her, he begins to experience the magic of love, with all of its ups and downs.

I have a special place for poignantly emotional films. While I very much enjoy blockbuster action films, movies that mess with your mind, and comedies, stories that tug at your heart like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hotaro no Haka, and 100 leave an indelible mark in my mind.

And what a mark did Ang Nawawala leave on me. I turned off the radio while driving home after the screening since I felt silence was a more appropriate accompaniment to what I felt when I left the movie theater. I guess I can see quite a bit of myself in Gibson. Like him, I’m still very much an introvert. And while friends who know me can attest that can be quite social and assertive when needed, I still maintain a sort of independence and aloofness, and having the innate need to be alone.

Dominic Roco played Gibson with such earnestness that you can see his emotions playing out on his face and expressive eyes despite staying silent for most of the film. Dawn Zulueta was also very effective as the withdrawn mother. And it is extremely pleasing to see a very emotional movie with so very little melodrama. No shouting and slapping of faces, and no dramatic dialogue carefully designed to be reposted over and over again on Twitter.

One of the film’s main theme is about silence and of things left unsaid. Yet I find it remarkable that all of this is beautifully set against the live songs of the local music scene. I’ve learned that Marie Jamora directed a lot of the music videos of our local artists and the film shows her love of music, something that I appreciated in this film. (And it deserved its Best Original Music Score award.)

Ang Nawawala actually tells a very simple story. But it is in the little silent moments and experiences that one truly finds oneself.

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