Mar 6, 2011

[Movies] Daybreak (2008)

Daybreak (2008)I know in the past I've commented on how a very large segment of the local independent film industry seems focused on creating LGBT-centric content, for good or for ill. While I'm all in support of more LGBT movies being made, I'd also like for more good LGBT movies instead of the thinly disguised gay porn that tries to pass itself off as an art film.

You know what I'm talking about - those kinds of movies.

But with bad comes some good and so we just need to get through this period in our local movie industry's development as we make our way forward onto better things. For the most part, you have to acknowledge that things are getting better for both local LGBT and independent cinema. More and more movies are getting recognition in the international scene including prestigious film festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival in France.

This movie had me a bit on the fence in terms of its overall impact. It clearly had good intentions at heart and they put a lot of effort into the value of the piece. It's just that some aspects of the execution felt rather lacking, this weakening the overall impact of the movie. But maybe this is just me.

Daybreak is a 2008 independent gay drama directed by Adolfo B. Alix, Jr., who has received awards for past works such as Mga Munting Tining. The screenplay was written by Charliebebs Gohetia, who also wrote and directed The Thank You Girls.

The movie focuses on two characters - one being William (Paolo Rivero), a married doctor and the other being JP (Coco Martin), a boatman and tour guide in Taal, Batangas. William makes up some excuse to his wife of a business obligation that brings him to Tagaytay when in fact he's off to secretly meet with JP, who is also his secret lover over the course of the past year or so. The two eventually meet up and make their way to a rest house in Tagaytay that's owned by William.

Once there, the two talk of their divergent lives - William's busy life in the city and how JP has been waiting for his return for the past few months while still entertaining his own girlfriend. The two eventually give into the passions over the course of their stay (a number of times, actually) but there's more to this visit than just another escape together. William is about to move to Australia because of work and is still deciding how to handle the loose arrangement he shares with JP in some strange pseudo-relationship. At the same time, JP's feelings for William have clearly grown to something much more than the casual fling this started out to be.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 17:  Actor Coco Martin at...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeCoco Martin is no stranger to the "indie" scene, especially not the gay one. He seems to have a significant propensity for acting in risqué LGBT-themed movies or at the very least those that require him to get naked in front of the camera. His comfort with his body is evident in the movie and it seems he has no real qualms about strutting his stuff for the camera. Of course the director had to make sure there was no frontal nudity in the movie, thus resulting in a number of clever yet realistically awkward positions for the pair. Acting-wise though, I wasn't overly impressed with how things were carried in this movie. I'm not sure if that's more because of the director and how he put things together, thus affecting how his delivery of lines turned out.

To be fair though, I felt he was still a tad better than Paolo Rivero. I'm not quite sure what he wanted to convey in terms of his portrayal of William. This may have been more of a writing / characterization challenge given it's not clear how he felt here. In the one hand, he clearly set out to break things off at the start of things since he was decided on his migration to Australia. On the other hand, for someone who wanted to start building distance, he did a lot of mushy stuff including preparing a special meal, slow dancing with JP and a fair amount of cuddling.

The message of the movie overall is rather confusing, especially when you factor in taglines like "Sometimes doing the right thing is wrong." Are we supposed to root for William and JP to be together instead of William honoring his obligations to his wife? Should we as gay men be content with being illicit affairs instead of aspiring for a full relationship with someone on equal footing? For two people who have yet to reach that point when they've even defined what their "relationship" really is, why should we as the audience feel that their bond is something significantly strong or true? The lack of emotional investment in their credibility as a "couple" weakens the overall flow the story since ultimately this is some "straight" guy finally cutting ties with his boy toy on the side and is moving on with his life. Thus it makes it harder to root for them to any degree since at the end of the day, what they're doing is wrong.

The movie had a lot of the trappings of an artistic effort, which is still generally a good thing. I feel that the director (and perhaps our local industry as a whole) can still work on his subtlety in how he puts things together. A lot of shots in the movie felt blatantly symbolic, as if you could imagine him standing there yelling at you, "this is a metaphor!" or "this is a highly symbolic / artistic moment!" I'm from the camp that would prefer to be shown a key scene that is surprisingly symbolic rather than one that is blatantly obvious in its efforts. It's a skill that is mastered over time and I'd like to think that the folks behind this movie are on the right track.

As a whole, it was a decent movie and a good effort in terms of a more artistic piece. I really feel the message was a bit warped, and my personal disagreements may have interfered with my perspective on things. Then again, you can't exactly just ignore the message you end up crafting since in many ways that's the whole point of making a movie. Treatment though wasn't too bad and I did appreciate how they made very full use of the house and all the benefits inherent in its design and layout.

Daybreak, which is also meant as a pun for "they break", is a step in the right direction for local indie cinema and a decent but not excessively memorable diversion for a lazy weekend. It gets 2.5 ways to massacre pasta because you've opted to do it on the kitchen floor out of 5.

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