by Richard Bolisay
▶︎ Bambanti, Paglipay, and Bagahe share not only the same writer and director but also a strong, promising start, one that draws the viewer easily with a sharp narrative hook. Somewhere in the unfolding, however, this foundation cracks, then breaks, and eventually collapses. In Bagahe, if one lets the glaring legal and logical oversight pass for the sake of dramatic continuity, the story of a mother named Mercy, who at first is suspected of leaving her fetus in the trash bin of an airplane’s toilet, and is in due course shown to be guilty of it, makes for a gripping moral and human tale, which at the same time comments largely on the cruelty of the situation that leads a woman in trauma to commit a terrible misdeed. It goes there, but not fully, for it is very conscious of raising the stakes. The decision to go bigger in scope and beyond the confines of procedural and family drama is admirable, zooming out for the bigger picture, so to speak, but this determination to show one by one the various institutions pummeling Mercy (and the women in them with questionable motives performing their duties) does not help the narrative and in fact only serves to weaken it. One feels Mercy’s helplessness but only in scattered moments, for the film is so loosely edited, so misguidedly paced, and so emotionally calculated — so diluted in prolonging — that the supposedly big scenes (even in terms of Bing Lao’s real-time mode of storytelling) hardly leave a punch. The statement on female suffering and its place in a wider and more specific sociopolitical milieu is not lost on the viewers, but they get to it faster than the film. ***
Richard Bolisay is a film critic. This piece was first published on his site Lilok Pelikula as part of "Dispatches from Cinemalaya 2017 (Part 2)," August 13 2017.