Contemporary light drama
2009, colour, 16:9, 108 mins
Directed by Erik Matti
By Derek Elley
Wed, 10 November 2010, 17:11 PM (HKT)
Gentle comedy of manners centred on a middle-aged nobody spreads its charm a little too thinly. Festivals, plus some niche TV.
Manila, the present day. Leo (Dwight Gaston) is in his mid-40s and has been working as a bookkeeper for three years in the same company, without taking a holiday. His life is utterly routine and unchanging, apart from visits to his sister Emma (Dolly Gutierrez) and her daughter Ri-ann (Jorja V. Montelibano). Haunted by the repetitive dream of a woman (Amanda Cajili) coming out of a house and kissing him, Leo decides to take some holiday and goes to Murcia, on Negros island, where he knows from a picture at his barber's that there is an identical house. Even though he finds that Melanie (Marilou Kho), the woman living there with her young daughter, looks different from the one in his dream, he decides to stay on in Murcia and try to get to know her. Helped by Dick (Dennis Ascalon), at whose house he lodges, and Dick's entrepreneurial friend Arnel (Milton Dionson), Leo gets a job as a cook at the canteen of Lilia (Checcs Osmeña) where Melanie lunches every day opposite City Hall.
On the surface, The Arrival (2009) is very different from director Erik MATTI's more familiar commercial works, such as the wonderful Aubrey Miles showcase Prosti (2002), enjoyable superhero spoof Gagamboy (2003), and offbeat ghost story Pa-siyam (2004). But underneath there are several of the same qualities: on the positive side, an appealingly wry humour, and on the negative side, a lack of balance and structure. Initially developed through improvisation sessions, and with no commercial pressures at all, it's been described by Matti as the type of film he's always wanted to make — and there's certainly more going for the finished product than against it.
Essentially the simple story of a fortyish nobody — he's so anonymous at work that even the security staff can't remember him after three years — who decides to take a chance for once in his life and (literally) follow his dream, The Arrival relies hugely on the lead performance of Dwight GASTON, the scriptwriter of several previous Matti movies (Pa-siyam, Gagamboy, Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingom (2005)). Blank-faced but kindly, with the look of a lost puppy, Gaston's Leo is a beautiful study in quiet determination who's progressively set off against a gallery of showier types: his man-eating sister Emma, streetwise Arnel, anally idle Dick (Dennis ASCALON, in the film's wierdest and funniest performance) and canteen owner Lilia. When Leo meets a woman — played with a beguiling lack of guile by Marilou KHO — who's as low-key as he is, the film cleverly leads the viewer into territory that turns out to be not as formulaic as it seems.
The film is scattered with small details — such as the common-or-garden sisig that Leo is so good at cooking — that develop into comedy plot points as the story ambles along; and the way in which the characters quietly develop from their initial stereotypes is also appealing, especially Dick and his sidekick Arnel. But at 108 minutes, The Arrival is just too distended: a subplot of Dick and his teenage son becomes distracting, several scenes (especially between Leo, Dick and Arnel) simply go on too long, and the start and finish need considerable tightening. It's a nice experiment that seems more radical in the context of Filipino cinema than it actually is — and one that could have been even better with some simple tweaking.
ContactSales: Reality Entertainment, Makati (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: Manila, 8 Dec 2009. Theatrical release: TBA.
Producer: Erik Matti (PH).
Script: Erik Matti. Photography: Lyle Sacris, Hermann Claravall, Joel De Guzman, Noel Lumibao. Editing: Borgy Torre, Ronald Banawa. Music: Francis De Veyra. Production design: Jed Sicangco, Michael Espanyol. Art direction: Donald Camon, Rashem Gumacal, John Michael Lee. Costumes: Maria Carmen Morata, Dennis "Banni". Sound: Jojo Gonzales, Eddie Boy Velasquez, Neil Estrella.
Cast: Dwight Gaston (Leo), Dennis Ascalon (Dick), Milton Dionson (Arnel), Marilou Kho (Melanie), Ricardo Sayson Jr. (Ochoy, Dick's son), Dolly Gutierrez (Emma, Leo's sister), Jess Evardone (barber), Checcs Osmeña (Lilia, canteen owner), Julieta Matti (Aunt Ising), Amanda Cajili (dream girl), Barney Molina (vice-mayor), Dante Amagin (Rolly, the cook), Bombi Plata (Benji, the security guard), Michael Espanyol (Ramon, Leo's office colleague), Lindy Osmeña (municipal desk officer), James Montelibano (Jaypee, Emma's boyfriend), Jorja V. Montelibano (Ri-ann, Emma's daughter), Idyll Padua (Kristie), Tisoy Ubaldo, Franco Arce, Jerry Mongcal (Leo's neighbours), Thomas Canonizado, Justin Saison, Raneth Saison, Alvin Alit (Ochoy's friends), Christine Joy Pardillo, Cristy Flores (canteen staff).