Neal Tan’s Balatkayo opens in Singapore where Edith (Aiko Melendez), who is working there, is set to go home to take care of a rather embarrassing emergency.
She goes through all the motions of a returning overseas worker, buying all the gifts and knickknacks for expecting relatives and saying all the quick farewells to her friends. Just before leaving Singapore, she reveals to her friend the reason for her sudden trip back to the country. Her son has a sex video that has gone viral. The friend bluntly and insensitively asks Edith where she can watch the video.
The friend’s parting quip is supposed to be funny.
It is supposed to be the first in the many absurd gestures of the film’s many characters that would have made ita potent satire about the false niceties that is a facet of being Filipino in this current age.
Written by Jason Paul Laxamana, whose previous works have always shown a remarkable perspective on the dynamics of being Filipino, Balatkayo is rife with promise, with scenes that cheekily exaggerate situations hopefully to enunciate the ills that pervade Filipino families that are torn apart by the much-advertised hopes of being employed abroad.
Sadly, the possible pleasures of Balatkayo are squandered by a direction that is so uninspired and unsophisticated, its attempts at humor mostly end up as sorry duds.
The film ends up as a tepid and pointless drama, and its labyrinthine exploration of the connected lives of despicable people whose arcs aren’t worth the time allotted to them.
Samson (Polo Ravales), Edith’s husband who is working in Dubai, is quietly seeking an annulment to legalize his dangerous extra-marital affair. Jasper (James Robert), her son, is a mess, bothered not just by the infamy that his sex video has given him but also by the responsibility he has over his sex partner, who turns out to be less of a mess than him.
All in all, Balatkayo’s characters are all shells of jokes that aren’t forthcoming. In this somewhat serious drama that Tan stubbornly insists, they aren’t worth any emotional investment.
The film’s score trembles with self-importance, seemingly unaware of the comical repercussions of Laxamana’s screenplay with its unnecessary swells and needless flourishes. Its low-rent visuals are gratingly flat. The performances, except perhaps for Melendez, are mostly mediocre.
Balatkayo is an irreparable blunder and the fact that there is actual promise to its core conceit makes it doubly frustrating. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.