As always, when one writes an opinion that appears later than other prolific reviewers, as in my case, there’s always someone who could better put into words what I have felt about a film. Perhaps the best review I have ever read online was one written by Jessica Zafra and she echoes many of thoughts about Thy Womb and my gripes about this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival.
But for those who would love to see this beautiful movie, I will try my best to provide you with an opinion sans the spoilers.
From Thy Womb FB Page:Directed by Brillante Mendoza, THY WOMB is the year’s most internationally acclaimed Filipino film–an official selection at the world’s top film festivals in Venice, Toronto, Busan, Bologna, Vienna, Brisbane, Taipei, Dubai, Goa (India), Poland, etc.
DescriptionA story of unconditional love about a Bajau midwife coping with the irony of her own infertility amid the deprivations of her gypsy community in Tawi-Tawi.A saga of island life stuck between the devil of passion and the deep blue sea of tradition.
First, I would have to make it very clear that this movie does not cater to mainstream tastes. It’s pretty similar to Ploning, except it’s visually less shiny and doesn’t seem to have been color-corrected. It also moves at a very relaxed pace, so even if the Badjao couple Shaleha (Nora Aunor) and Bangas-An (Bembol Roco) already identified their problems early on, you will not be witnessing the usual slapping and screaming scenarios that define most Filipino films.
If Thy Womb had a narrator, it could have been mistaken for a Discovery Channel feature. It had a documentary-like feel, as it depicted the day-to-day life of a Muslim couple. To me, Shaleha and Bangas-An were soulmates: inseparable partners in everything from midwifery to fishing to selling their goods. Even when it came down to looking for a possible second wife, a child-bearer, for Bangas-An, they were partners.
Director Brillante Ma Mendoza showed me an unfamiliar culture and a resilient relationship that can thrive in such a foreign yet surprisingly regular setting that it was almost cute. Shaleha and Bangas-An were regular people, spoke with regular intonation, lived in a world that was not color-corrected because their daily lives — though randomly disturbed by bandits and rebels — exhibited nothing much out of the ordinary. It was here that I understood how a woman like Nora Aunor achieved her Superstar status: she and Bembol Roco acted with their eyes, subtly expressed with their faces what words could never give justice to. It was acting in its most sublime form.
Perhaps if Filipino directors and actors — majority of whom are used to overacting and exaggerated intonations (reminiscent of radio drama) — could master the art of subtlety the way the people behind Thy Womb did, I could see hope for our local cinema.