Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sundalong Kanin - Cinemalaya New Breed

Director: Janice O'Hara
With: Nathaniel Brit, Ian de Leon, Gardo Verzosa, Via Veloso, Enzo Pineda, Marc Abaya, Art Acuña

Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Set during the Japanese Occupation, four friends (Nitoy, Benny, Carding, and Badong) aspire nothing more than to become soldiers fighting the Japanese until they are confronted by the realities of war that threaten to destroy their families and their friendship.

Another favorite from this year's batch of New Breeds. You can never go wrong with Sundalong Kanin that even if it's flawed, it managed to be likable and engaging. It's funny, light-hearted, deep, heart warming, depressing, crazy, suspenseful... I can go on and on but the movie really showcased all of these qualities. It's crazy because the movie tackles one of the darkest times in the Philippines yet it lifted the hearts of its viewers and the reason for that are the four enjoyable and charismatic characters who are fun to root for the same way we rooted for Guido and his son in Life is Beautiful, in which both films exhibit humor and sentimentality in the midst of the war.

It's not the situation of the Philippines under the Japanese occupation that made this film sentimental, but it's the story of the friendship of the four main characters which lead to both heroism and betrayal. The film is very plot oriented that no scene is wasted and every scene is vital to the story. The film began by establishing the solid friendship of the four characters evoking their naivete and ignorance of the state of the country. It kind of slowed down in the middle, slightly weakened by the overly staged scenes with some extras but in its last act is when it started to pick up and never looked back. It was intense and devastating but there's also a bittersweet feeling from its last frame to the end credits. It was hard to look at their fun pictures in the end credits because they're tear-inducing.

Benny, Badong, Carding and Nitoy
via www.mymovieworld-coolman0304.blogspot.com
Sundalong Kanin is satisfying enough but it would have been MILES better if some scenes with the extras were orchestrated well and the jokes by the leader of the guerrillas didn't exceed the borderline of ridiculousness. Because it has everything -- an engaging plot and a magnetic and enjoyable cast, but the weak execution of the screenplay pulls this film down a bit. The greatness of the cast prevails though because the four main lead actors gave River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman and Jason O'Connell of Stand By Me a run for their money. They're wacky but they also have mad acting skills. Arthur Acuña is also a standout as the film's Japanese leader. At first, I laughed at myself by the thought that he's portraying a Japanese character but when he started to speak, geez, if Meryl Streep can do British perfectly, so can Art Acuña with his stellar Japanese accent. So believable and amazing. Paolo O'hara is another standout as the filthy-mouthed father of one of the kids. He's so funny to watch that despite being hot headed and loudmouth, he still managed to be adorable. Marc Abaya didn't impress here though and I hate his character so much!

Sundalong Kanin is a film that's poignant and sad more than fun and happy and I wish someone would remake the film with the same actors just because it really is a promising film that sadly didn't reach its full potential. With better direction and I guess a score like Nicola Piovani in Life is Beautiful, this would be perfection and perhaps it would end up being my favorite. Having said those, I still love it in spite of its weaknesses.