On What It Feels Like To Drown in Ron Bryant’s Alon (2008) December 16, 2008Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinema One, Indie Sine, Noypi, UP Screening.
English Title: Wave
Directed by Ron Bryant
Cast: Mark Gil, Eula Valdez, Charee Pineda
On what may have been the film that will nail his reputation, Ron Bryant scores a lopsided dissatisfaction, and on what may have secured his place in my reserved future viewings becomes a case of compromise, I am already having second thoughts. Alon still deserves to be looked at, and if one has managed to follow his works – – Ruptura as an amateur yet disturbing experiment, Baryoke as a beautiful piece of indulgence, and Rotonda as a messy tour-de-force – – it can easily be inferred that he is one of the better directors around, someone who promises a thorough understanding of cinematic language, but, as what Alon has meticulously proved, he can also be a stubborn artist whose ideals can fail in accordance with his subject.
Bryant is good with multiple actors – – Rotonda and Baryoke benefit from the layers of their narratives, evoking a coherent argument in various perspectives of their characters’ lives – – but rather ineffective in minimalist scenarios. It opens with the familiar shots of the sea, the crashing waves, then a voice suddenly breaks the monotony, a poem being recited, the longing of a loved one, painful words. A young woman follows her dog, which leads her to a man in his house, a taciturn fellow who looks mysterious to her. They talk and easily become friends because of her vexing eagerness. She returns and next thing you know he is teaching her how to cook, sitting with her in front of the beach, and fighting about the possibility of them being together. The film has a drastic turn, in the least impressive way, when the young woman discovers that he has a wife, a sick, dying wife at that, on her bed upstairs. The wife looks forward to her death, asks her husband to consider his relationship with the young woman, what could be more gratifying than your own wife pushing you to have another woman at your side once she’s gone? Nothing, because that’s not the case, our man is not a ladykiller, he is a principled man. There is no hint of inconvenience in their relationship, all three of them, and it seems that the dying woman wants her fair share of pain, she is ready to die. At this point I forgot to tell you that the young woman is just in vacation, so she has to leave, back to the city, and study as a nurse. When she comes back to the house near the sea, several years after, as the waves reassure her of their constant guidance, she can only make out the loss of an important fragment of her past and nothing else; she stood still.
The story sounds convincing but five minutes through the film I can already sense what’s massively wrong with it: Charee Pineda. She has mouthed what comes to mind as the most annoying “hi” in cinema you’ll ever hear; she has broken the strength of this film into a million pieces, whatever left is trite and uninteresting. Too bad not even Mark Gil and Eula Valdez can overcome her irritating presence; she annoys more than she delivers. Bryant employs his usual sweep of long takes and slow burn in less satisfying effect; I long for interest, there is nothing in it that has that, it is still the stuff we see in TV. The pain will always be present; it’s up to us to play with it and make it the most important thing in the world. In Baryoke, the linger becomes an integral part of its narrative, its waywardness is the story, its characters’ lives determined by both chance and decision, its tedium is its strength; in Alon, what surfaces is obstinacy, and that being consistent is not good enough; it loses grip despite the force it gives on its handling. In the blink of an eye, the beauty that has been keeping our attention in steady escapes.