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‘Ang Nawawala’ Film Review: A Loss for Words, A Passion for Music

Ang Nawawala (What Isn’t There) promotes resounding tunes about coping up with loss, falling in love, and discovering oneself.

It follows the life of a young man who is still profoundly affected by a trauma from his childhood. Unable to speak after a family tragedy, this deeply troubled youth finds solace in the company of friends, and in no time, in a series of romantic encounters with a fascinating woman who shares his taste for music. However, his dark past makes it difficult for him to live a life beyond his self-imposed personal shell.

The film targets the younger audience. Its music-venerating tale strikes the chords of the upper class landscape, which allows the well-to-do viewers to aptly relate to its characters. Meanwhile, the underprivileged ones may or may not find themselves drawn into the story’s escapist world of the wealthy. Depicting a subculture where cameras, vinyl records, indie music, and eclectic fashion thrive, it effectively features the lifestyles of the rich families and the young hipsters, musicians, and artists who often go to gigs, fall in love at gigs, and get their hearts broken at gigs.

Genuinely 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 personalities. At the same time, it also finds the right bits and pieces of comedy to still keep things light and breezy. Instead of feeding people with the usual bursts of overly emotional speaking lines, it primarily utilizes a myriad of melodies and some rightful pauses so that the viewers can fittingly explore life’s many complexities in the perspective of its characters.

Even before finally seeing the film, I already heard about people’s different takes on it – the viewpoints coming from the pro, the anti, and everything else in between. As I finally had my chance to watch it, I would have to say that the people’s “love it or hate it” views both have valid points. In any case, it is essential to note that, amidst its shortcomings, this musical elegy is a worthy addition to the diverse offerings of this era’s thriving independent cinema.

Considering my personal encounters with both the sector of the economically challenged and the domain of the hipsters and the elite, I am able to grasp the varying insights that my friends and acquaintances have for the film. The material’s impact on them seems greatly influenced by their own “realities.” Whether they are dazzled, annoyed, or displeased, their outlooks are affected by: their personal experiences; their sense of belongingness in relation to the story; their personal tastes and preferences in watching movies; their structured and random musings about life; and their convictions about various societal issues.

This picture’s unique charm clearly settles for its solid showcase of subtle and fleeting moments. However, people looking for deeper sensibilities, especially those who experience the harsh realities of living an impoverished existence, will most likely find the characters’ issues and coping up 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 into a subculture that only a relatively small number of people can actually relate to, this neorealist offering binds the general audience with effective emotional ups and downs through its musical elements. Its punctuation of songs and silences really help hold the narrative together.

From the quietness that magnifies how much one needs to express to the inside jokes attributed to the music scene, 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 tale’s convincing moments of joy, pain, angst, and longing.

The film’s most memorable parts include two romantic bonding sequences weaved by a couple’s love for music. The first one happens in a vinyl record sale where the potential lovers communicate through record titles and the second happens inside a car where the impassioned pair shares musical tracks from separate headsets – allowing two featured songs to blend into one. As the two of them communicate and express themselves outside the conventions, the songs truly break the barriers of language. This champions the universality of music in capturing hearts and altering people’s moods and feelings.

The entire film actually becomes a mixtape of life’s youthful moments. The sincerity of this cathartic piece of cinema comes to terms with the biting realities that help shape people to become who they are. It journeys through the long process of growing up and letting go. It can break people’s hearts, then set them free.

Review also published at: BusinessWorld Weekender (2012)

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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