Thursday, August 21, 2014

My personal reaction to METRO MANILA (2013)

This is a look at the plight of one farming family forced to go to Manila when the harvest fails to give them enough money for the next planting season's seeds. Struggling to get by, taken advantage at every turn the family realizes that things are not even remotely as they had hoped. When Oscar, the head of thee family, lucks out and talks his way into a position as a security guard things are looking up, until he finds out that there are other forces at work that once again look to crush him and his family.

I've seen several of director Sean Ellis's earlier films, however other than his horror film The Broken, none of them really stayed with me other than my knowing I saw them. While The Broken didn't completely work, it had moments that did. Actually it had enough that I actually have a clear memory of the film.

In some ways Metro Manila is like The Broken in that I think that the film works best in pieces, especially in it's later sections. Once Oscar gets the job working security the film picks up and it becomes something more interesting than the just a farming family in the big city. The cat and mouse game that plays out makes this film something worth seeing.

Okay full disclosure, until the point where Oscar gets the job I couldn't give myself over to the film fully. Its not the fault of the film, which is very good on it's own terms. The problem, and it's my problem is that this film is like a whole spate of recent films from around the world that are pretty much exactly the same, namely the genre of  farmer leaves his village for the big city only to end up in a life somehow connected to crime. I think I've seen at least four other similar films recently, I think the only one I've reviewed here was Ice Poison, where the basic plot was exactly the same. I know the directors weren't copying each other since the films all came from different countries, were made independently and released apart from each other, the problem is that the releasing companies have brought them all here within a 12 months (with most within in the last six) of each other with the result that you can't help but feel a bit of deja vu. I think that had I seen this back in February during Film Comment Selects I would have liked it more, since it wouldn't have crashed into the films at Tribeca and elsewhere.

My bias stated I have to say Metro Manila when seen on it's own terms is really good, and the second half lifting it up into the realm of something special. Actually I know a couple of people who saw it at Film Comment Selects and who haven't seen variations on its plot who are absolutely over the moon for it. They warned me that it was a film that was going to hang with me for days afterward. Me,I know it's good enough that if I can distance myself from this mini-wave of similar films I am coming back to it to give it a second go. You should try it for yourself.

The film opens in theaters and on VOD tomorrow and is worth a shot if you haven't seen similar films.

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