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‘Sonata’ Film Review: Music of Love and Mortality

“Sonata” — an entry to the Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival 2013 — captures the poetic eloquence of life through art, solitude, and relationships.

It promotes a language of understanding for people dealing with pain and loss, as well as those thriving in joy and discovery. The narrative is not without flaws, but the maturity of the filmmakers’ artistry ultimately makes sense of the story’s inexplicable music about love and mortality.

This dramatic piece, crafted by the familiar powerhouse tandem of Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between an internationally renowned opera singer who is forced to retire after losing her voice and a city boy who finds himself enjoying the beauty of provincial life. After a long and successful career in Europe, the broken diva returns to her hometown and puts herself on exile inside her ancestral home. When a good friend from decades back arrives to her aid, her son becomes instrumental for this worn-out artist to recover her spirit.

The story explores the life of an aging woman who has dedicated her life to her craft — at the expense of love and family. Upon losing the limelight, she realizes she is left with nothing else to live for and her whole world falls apart. When she unexpectedly finds herself in the company of a young boy, their unique friendship allows her to discover the healing power of love, art, and nature.

This film is meant to feel more than think. Its moments of contemplation dig deep, rightfully leading its main character back to her roots.

During the first half, the cinematic pieces don’t exactly work as a seamless offering. The story moves in ways that initially seem off the grid — until the interconnected characters finally establish harmony on screen. As the tale progresses, the emotional investment on the narrative starts weaving a much stronger sensory experience for the audience.

This cinematic package sends a warm message that no matter where the harshness of life brings you, you can still find your way by returning home. It shows how artistic pursuits and the beauty of nature impact human interactions in ways beyond comprehension. It promotes the revitalizing power of art and the countryside by highlighting a person’s simplest sources of joy, craziness, and hope. It leads the characters toward cultural and emotional discoveries, which allow them to better handle their pains and longings.

Paying tribute to the beauty of the province of Negros Occidental, the film’s backdrop showcases many awe-inspiring vistas reflecting the filmmakers’ sincere love and attachment to the place. Clearly, this project brings the ones behind it closer to home. Yet in no time, they transcend it into something beyond their comfort zone.

The story suitably tackles a type of crisis that any person can encounter at any point of his or her life. Using the characters’ reactions and speaking lines, it injects bits and pieces of ideas, notions, and impressions on how certain people look at life and culture. For the most part, the varying elements on screen look both profound and personal with shades of real-life experiences flowing smoothly into the narrative.

The sound and music generally work for the tale. However, some forgivable synching issues remain in the edit. The sequence involving characters speaking in French, along with the sequence set on a French stage, feels quite awkward and not as genuine as the many other substantial parts of the film. Moreover, the nature montage depicting rural life is able to collectively make its point for the narrative, but for some reason, on a personal note, it still doesn’t completely establish a cinematic synergy in the film’s edit.

Early on in the film, the acting performances turn out as a mixed bag. Cherie Gil’s character remains solid throughout, but the inconsistencies of Chino Jalandoni’s body movements and facial reactions don’t always turn out convincing. Nevertheless, this child actor, along with the rest of the ensemble cast, still rightfully carries the film toward a touching end.

Review also published at: BusinessWorld Weekender (2013)

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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