Film Review: Anak

To my Filipino readers, I’m sure you’re familiar with Rory Quintos’ Anak. As Philippine’s download-12submission to the 73rd Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Anak is often regarded as the best Filipino movie of all-time.

Anak is a touching tale, reflecting the hardship numerous overseas Filipino domestic workers have to undergo for the sake of their family’s livelihood. In the film, Josie, portrayed by Vilma Santos, is the representative for those tireless Filipino maids and nannies working abroad. After several year of working for a wealthy couple in Hong Kong, Josie finally earns the opportunity to return to her native Philippines and reunite with her children, whom she hasn’t see for many years.

Upon arriving in her homeland and meeting her grownup children, Josie realizes that the next chapter in her life was not what she expected. First, her plans of starting a business in her hometown are met with several unresolvable obstacles. In addition, Josie discovers that her absence from her children’s lives have made them emotionally-guarded, especially considering the death of their father, Josie’s husband, following Josie’s departure from the Philippines. Her eldest daughter, Carla, portrayed by Claudine Barretto, has especially grown explicitly hostile towards her. Josie discovers that years of working aboard to financially support her children have, ironically, made her a stranger in their eyes.

The Philippines is mired with poverty and widespread unemployment. Since the Marcos administration in the 1970’s, thousands of Filipino laborers were dispatched to the Persian Gulf, initially to ensure a steady supply of oil while attempting to resolve the unemployment crisis. Since that initial wave of emigration, Filipinos have sought low-skilled jobs all over the world, from Hong Kong to Riyadh. These migrant workers endure harsh work conditions and abusive employers in order to ensure a better life for their families back home.

Interestingly, a significant portion of these migrant workers tend to be women, making them the primary breadwinners of their respective households. In the film, one of Josie’s friends chastises Josie’s husband for not ‘being man enough’ to seek job opportunities aboard and provide for his family, burdening his wife with that task.

download-11As the movie progresses, the plot turns its attention to Carla. Struggling with feelings of abandonment, Carla carries heavy resentment for her mother while longing for her now-deceased father. She has descended into a life of promiscuity and debauchery. Surprisingly, she has even had two abortion as a result of her self-destructive lifestyle. Josie displays nothing but unconditional love and affection for her oldest daughter, which has only enraged Carla as she continues to carry that baggage of rancor.

Claudine Barretto wonderfully conveyed the rebellious nature of Carla’s character. She and Vilma Santos made a brilliant mother-and-daughter pair, capturing the nuances and grey texture of a parent-child relationship, similarly to Nil Batay Sannata.

Anak effectively reflected the burdens and anxieties of millions of Filipinos struggling to make ends meet. Parents worrying about their children’s future. Children burdened with the pressure of succeeding academically in order to please their parents and climb the social ladder. The reason behind Anak’s fame was its ability to resonate with its Filipino viewers, particularly overseas workers and the lower-middle-class at large.

Anak is an ode to all overseas Filipino workers, strenuously laboring not only for themselves and their families, but for the entire Filipino population

Film Review: The Man From Nowhere

-The Unexpected Bonds of Unconditional Friendship

On the surface, ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is an South Korean mystery thriller centered around a mysterious pawn shop owner well-trained in the martial arts. However, this eye-dazzling action-packed flick is actually a work of poetry celebrating the virtues of unexpected yet unbreakable bonds.

This film could rightfully be compared to Pierre Morel’s ‘Taken’ starring Liam Neeson. However, ‘Taken’ circles around a father attempting to rebuild a relationship with his estranged daughter, only to find her kidnapped by human traffickers. In contrast, ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is a story about two people who are nothing more than strangers.

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Cha Tae-sik is a unlikable pawnshop owner,who operates from his apartment. He is scorned by his neighbors and is assumed to be a child molester. Despite such an outlandish rumor, Cha Tae-sik always seems to have one little girl following him around. This young child is So-mi. Her mother, Hyo-Jeong, is a heroin addict who unwisely steals drugs from an organized crime syndicate. Hyo-Jeong’s drug habits self-destructively lands her daughter in hot water with a crime syndicate, prompting Cha Tae-sik to embark on a life-threatening, dangerous mission to save his only ‘friend’ during which, in the process, his dark past comes to light.

Kim Sae-ron gave a heartwarming, emotional performance as So-mi. It is no wonder she is currently the most demanded teenage actress in South Korea. So-mi is a neglected child, verbally abused by a mother who craves a heroin-induced intoxication over the love of her download (1)only daughter. Detaching from her mother, So-mi turns to her neighbor, Cha Tae-sik, and invests all of her affection towards him. When So-mi infers Cha Tae-sik’s seemingly apathetic attitude towards her, she laments:

“Mister? I embarrass you too, right? That’s why you ignored me? It’s okay. My teacher and all the kids do that too. Mom said that if I get lost, I should forget our address and phone number. She’s gets drunk and says we should die. Even though that pig called me a bum…you’re meaner. But I don’t hate you. Because if i did, I won’t have anyone I like. Thinking about it hurts me here. So I won’t hate you”

It baffles me on how the most unloved tend to be the most loving. So-mi understanding of unconditional love is remarkably insightful. Even if she remains an social pariah, she imagesunabashedly retains her love for Cha Tae-sik because that is her source of sustenance and hope. Her love for Cha Tae-sik is the net preventing her from falling into the abyss of nihilistic despair.

Bin-Won’s interpretation of Cha Tae-sik’s character was quite intuitive. He successfully captured the aura of mystery surrounding Cha Tae-sik. Dashing, with an edgy streak, our protagonist could trigger the interest of any viewer. He utilizes his astute martial arts skills to dazzle the audience while fighting off crime bosses. As the movie processes, his secret past is revealed, including a tragic event that changed his life forever.

The other cast members also played their roles well, including Kim Hyo-seo as Hyo-Jeong, Kim Tae-Hoon as the detective, and Thangagong Wanktrakul as Rowan. Kim Hee-won was downloadexceptionally menacing as Man-Seok, from the crime syndicate.

Lee Jeong-beom’s sense of direction is nothing short of sensational. The background setting was so authentic, you felt as if you were there. The action scenes were astutely choreographed. The soundtrack was so unique and eerie, it would implant itself in your head for at least a week.

The Man from Nowhere is a beautifully-crafted movie that attests to the greatness of Korean cinema. Highly recommended!