A Filipino-Canadian family prays by a row of ruby red candles. The son in this frame is Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas). He lives a repetitive life, if you can call it that, with his elder mother Alma (Vangie Alcasid) and father Reynaldo (Esteban Comilang), also pictured in the frame, in her neat Canadian home. The routine of the pious trio usually includes church attendance and weekly dance classes, meals, and, in the case of Joshua, work. Joshua is a shy loner who rarely makes eye contact. He is an administrator at a university where he has turned down offers from employees to only eat out. However, every day in his cozy bedroom he is faced with the religious iconography of candles and figurines that adorn his dresser and prays to God that one day he will meet someone before his mother or father dies. Because he’s now approaching 50, he doesn’t want to be alone.
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But the tragedy actually hits Joshua. His mother suddenly dies. And with his married brother Paolo (Pablo S.J. Quiogue) With his own wife and children, it looks like Joshua has to help his sick father without ever being able to follow his own path in life. Fortunately, however, he gets a reprieve when his cousin Marisol (Sheila Lotuaco) comes from Kuwait. The couple have always been closely linked and it’s only inevitable that lovesick Joshua falls in love with them. So opens Martin EdralinThe charming but familiar bilingual directorial debut – “Islands. ”
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Edralin’s “islands” show only a few stylistic flashes. No marks, tiles or pans. Not even a gallop. That is by design. See cameraman Diego GuijarroThe camera is as stationary as Joshua’s life, but no less sensitive. Guijarro’s lens rarely looks down on Joshua. More frontal so that we can see his plaintive eyes when his head bends for air. editor Bryan AtkinsonThe lengthy pace is just as purposeful. As Reynaldo’s health continues to deteriorate in the days after Alma’s death, bleeding just as slowly for Joshua as it is for us, we can feel his gaze seeking companionship. A bond that he only finds when he gets closer to Marisol.
However, a character as short-sighted as Joshua has its drawbacks. We are mostly banished to his family home. A few short steps from home include a trip to the grocery store, dance class, church, and hospital. If you measured the time outside the house, it would hardly add up to ten or fifteen minutes. In fact, one could imagine that “Islands” is more of a play performed on a very intimate stage than a film. That’s partly because Joshua can’t imagine life outside of his parents. And only the presence of Marisol forces him to explore the outside world. In connection with the deliberately drawn out tempo, the desired monotony can lull the viewer into sentimental dreariness.
Without the restrained inner performance of Balagtas, we could be lost altogether. He ties us to this finely sketched figure, a loner with whom one could compare Ernest Borgnine‘S “Marty, “If only he had friends. Working through Joshua’s boiling self-despising balagtas somehow finds a way to be both impenetrable and enveloping. For example, Marisol’s dejected demeanor is enough to know that he is more than shy. She sees his melancholy wraps. It is unfortunate, however, that Joshua rarely sees hers. Even so, his fleeting, wide-eyed delight leads us to believe that maybe one day he might find the One, if only he would speak. It’s a high-level nuance in a little story.
Other disasters occur to Joshua, but listing them would ruin the film. Instead, just know that Joshua cannot avoid the inevitable. And its downcast world tears you to the ground just for the glimmer of the movie’s final shot to evoke a joyful tiny victory. The familiar beats of a man who is learning to thrive again are not enough to dull the profound pathos of this humble character study. Edralin’s “Islands” is a patient debut that reminds us that while our parents are important, our own happiness cannot be underestimated or ignored. In this sense, “Islands” is a life-affirming achievement in the last few seconds. [B]
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