By Rianne Hill Soriano

A loss for words, a passion for music

Posted on September 14, 2012

Movie Review Ang Nawawala Directed by Marie Jamora

ANG NAWAWALA (What Isn’t There) -- a finalist in the New Breed full-length feature category of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2012 -- focuses on coping with loss, falling in love and discovering oneself. It follows the life of a young man who is profoundly affected by a childhood trauma. Unable to speak, he finds solace in the company of friends, and in a series of romantic encounters with a fascinating woman who shares his taste for music.

DOMINIC ROCO and Annicka Dolonius in a scene from Ang Nawawala
The film targets the younger audience, depicting a subculture where cameras, vinyl records, indie music and eclectic fashion thrive -- effectively featuring the lifestyles of rich families and young hipsters, musicians and artists who often go to gigs, fall in love at gigs and get their hearts broken at gigs.

Crafted in the cradling arms of the local music scene, this stylish but heartfelt family and romantic drama exposes the serious emotional baggage of its major characters. At the same time, it also finds the right bits and pieces of comedy to keep things light and breezy. Instead of the usual bursts of overly emotional dialogue, it primarily utilizes melodies and pauses so the viewers can explore life’s many complexities from the perspective of the characters.

Even before seeing the film, I already heard different takes on it -- pro, anti and everything in between. Having watched it, I would have to say that the “love it or hate it” views both have valid points. What is essential to note that, amid its shortcomings, this musical elegy is a worthy addition to the diverse offerings of this era’s thriving independent cinema.

This picture’s unique charm clearly lies in its subtle and fleeting moments.

However, people looking for deeper sensibilities, especially those who experience the harsh realities of an impoverished existence, will most likely find the characters’ issues and coping mechanisms quite trivial.

I appreciate how this coming-of-age piece presents music as an enigmatic character. No matter how deeply rooted the story is in a subculture that only a relatively small number of people can relate to, this neorealist offering binds the general audience with effective emotional ups and downs through its musical elements.

There is something very personal in the story’s sense of youthful playfulness. The ensemble cast featuring the twins Dominic and Felix Roco, Annicka Dolonius, Dawn Zulueta, Buboy Garovillo, Jenny Jamora, Marc Abaya and Alcris Galura significantly contributes to the characters’ convincing moments of joy, pain, angst and longing.

The film’s most memorable parts include two romantic sequences woven through with music. The first is at a vinyl record sale where the potential lovers communicate through record titles, and the second inside a car where the pair shares music with separate headsets, allowing two featured songs to blend into one. The songs truly break the barriers of language.

This film champions the universality of music in capturing hearts and altering people’s moods and feelings.

The entire film is actually a mixtape of life’s youthful moments. This cathartic piece of cinema comes to terms with the biting realities that help shape people. It journeys through the long process of growing up and letting go. It breaks people’s hearts, then sets them free.

The MTRCB has rated this film R-13