Sunday, July 22, 2007

Endo (2007)



Endo (Jade Castro, 2007)

The film's title is street-speak for "end of contract." It also refers to the final day of work in the normative six months of employment which these exploitative contracts bind lowly employees with, sending them back to that limbo of joblessness after the end of that duration, or starting anew with another like contract in another workplace. The system is a glaring loophole in the Philippines' labor laws, wherein employees are set free before reaching the statute-imposed regularization, saving management the headaches concerning tenure and other employment benefits. It is a loophole that has turned into a norm, both to the exploiting capitalists and the workers that are forcedly dragged into the unfair system.

Writer-director Jade Castro's Endo is a love story set within that world of recycled employment, where romance is as disposable as the jobs these people hold onto. Leo (Jason Abalos) is already used to the grind of part-time employment, with all his friends and girlfriends revolving around the same routine of livelihood. Similarly, His love affairs are as short-lived as his employment stints. Tanya (Ina Feleo) works as a saleslady in a shoe store inside a mall where Leo would start his new work as a sales boy for another boutique. The two inevitably fall in love, considering the convenient distance, the similarities of their situations, that incandescent spark that erupt when they go by. A love triangle then sprouts when Candy (CJ Javarata), Leo's ex-girlfriend from a previous job, begins to rekindle their past relationship. During that instance, the film suddenly acquires a very familiar premise, something we've already seen so many times in so many movies and other kinds literature, only with different scenarios and circumstances.

Thankfully, the familiar yet utterly gorgeous romance is only one facet of the film. Castro generously allows us a more intimate glimpse at Leo's life. Leo's father (Ricky Davao) was left by his wife when he was rendered inutile by an accident. As a result, he then spends most of his time stuck at home while taking care of his fighting cock. Leo's younger brother (Alchris Galura) spends more time lounging at home or going out than studying, as what hardworking Leo who spends for his education only expects from him. His deadened role as breadwinner at home forces him to be satisfied with the hypnotizing groove of temporary employment, quietly happy that he's sustaining his family and planting seeds for a better future by sending his younger brother to school. His only diversion from the lulling staticity of his life are the erstwhile affairs that come and go whenever he moves in and out of his jobs. The joys and pains of falling in and out of love become the potent drugs that make life easier for him.

Endo is beautifully acted. Jason Abalos, clearly matured from the teenybopper fare he has grown up with, plays his role with tenderness and sincerity that is quietly affecting. The biggest revelation in the film is Ina Feleo, daughter of proficient actor Johnny Delgado and director Laurice Guillen. She exudes a charming candor, a naturally blossoming although shielded submissiveness, an unobtrusive vulnerability, that makes you fall in love with her. Her eyes twinkle, not in a way that is manufactured as most teenage actresses have mastered through studio-sponsored acting workshops, but with a gratifying sincerity that is quite rare in local cinema. She speaks in a mannered diction that should feel strange in the social class populated by low-salaried blue-collar workers, yet despite that supposedly glaring inconsistency, she still inhabits the character with enthralling sensitivity.

It's impressive how Castro tells the oft-told tale with much frankness and admirable honesty without further sensationalizing or politicizing the backdrop where the romance is set. The narrative unfolds wonderfully and without surrendering to the old-fashioned tropes that turn love stories into forgettable exercises. Castro was able to enchant me with his brilliantly-written characters thriving and struggling in realistically-drawn situations. Even the characters that come and go through Leo and Tanya's transient relations with their respective jobs are treated with importance as Castro magnanimously grants these characters stories that complement and deepen the central romance like Leo's pal Mark and his suspicious relations with his manager or Tanya's co-worker (Mailes Kanapi) in the hotel whose knack for giving life-affirming advices are clearly learned from her own experiences. Castro was able to paint clear and moving portraits of the people we barely notice, those who have been delegated to the sidelines of this mechanical and utterly commercial world. At least for once, their happiness and aches have been made understandable by fleshing these emotions and aspirations through a medium as universal as love.

******
This film won Special Jury Prize in the 3rd Cinemalaya Film Festival.

26 comments:

Raya said...

Endo has real knowledge of people who need space in cinema, more than those other recent films.

Oggs Cruz said...

True... Very apt too, I believe Senator Lacson has a bill that would put a stop to contractual workers.

Ed said...

Endo reminds me of Jeturian's Sana Pag-ibig Na. Maliit pero may puso.

Raya said...

Maliit only refers to budget in those cases, but Endo moves towards a bigger scope, whereas Sana moves inwards. I think Endo in that sense is more ambitious.

Oggs Cruz said...

I haven't seen Sana Pagibig Na, but Endo reminded me of another Jeturian film, Minsan Pa. Minsan Pa situated its love story within the world of tourists that come and go in the life of the main character, a tour guide. The plot is quite similar, the pervading sadness is almost identical.

Ronald said...

Abalos and Feleo are rare breed performers, they exude with great depth. I wish they will not be just mere decoration in their future films and not exploited.

ed said...

Feleo is a very sensual artist. Just like her mom.

Oggs Cruz said...

Her mom is Laurice Guillen right?

Ed said...

yes..

Oggs Cruz said...

Saw Laurice Guillen in Tanghalang Ateneo's staging of The Glass Menagerie; it's the first time I've seen her perform on stage and you're right, she's quite sensual and she knows it.

Enrique said...

i feel in love with ina feleo's character. pero medyo di ko lang nagustuhan yung dating ng kuwento may hinahanap ako na kulang. at that time siguro, masyadong pagod na ako para sa limang pelikula kaya di ko napansin nang maigi ang 'endo'. dapat mapanood ulit.

Oggs Cruz said...

It's subtle, that's for sure. But subtlety is good, right?

Rheia said...

i loved the soundtrack of endo. anyway know where i could get the official song list? :)

i liked endo but i expected more. kudos to the actors though. they did justice to their characters :)

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Rheia,

Sorry, I won't be able to help you with the official song list. I believe the director has a blog, don't know exactly which one though.

DIGITAL BURYONG said...

hi oggs,

i agree with your thought about Endo. i think it's one of the best films that cinemalaya has ever produced since its inception. it just proves that our industry needs no hyphaluting ideas or overblown dramaturgies to come up with a really good film. i plan to write a review as well but my thoughts are all on the floor. :) anyway, your film journal is impressive. it's always a great time to visit here.

-chard

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks chard,

I appreciate it.

micmic said...

In the middle of the film, isa lang ang pumasok at ibinulong ko sa katabi ko: pang-SM o pang-Robinson ang pelikula. Bunga marahil ang reaksyon na ito sa (1)'First Day High' biases ko, dagdagan pa ng mga mainstream directors at talent managers na kasama kong nanood(2)at daloy ng pelikula.

Some call it subtlety (in terms of the film's discussion on the condition of contractual workers), pero sa palagay nalunod ang very strong na political statement ng pelikula sa love story.
It was like watching a mainstream movie with A TINGE of pagiging (o feeling) political.
The truth, i was expecting na he'd maximize the space/roll given to the topic (not naman to the point na 'rahrah-taas-kamao" type). Indie naman kasi ang coin sa movie; sayang naman ang espasyo para talakaying mabuti ang mga isyung panlipunan.
Bukod pa rito, it was as if im watching a Regine Velasquez movie because of the product placements (o ako lang nakapansin nito?). At first, i was trying to ignore the Oishi, Richmonde and Eurotel logo pero it came to a point that i was so annoying (given na indie nga ang pelikula).

On the other hand, saludo ako sa ginawang parallelism sa pagitan ng flighty work at flighty relationship. (katulad rin ng pagkakakilala / pagtatagpo namin ni Jade na panadalian lamang --- but that's beside the point).
Wala ring dudang kinilig talaga ako. Mula sa mga quotable-quotes at sa mismong acting nina Ina Feleo at Jason Abalos. Hats off to them. Particularly si Jason na mas kilala sa mga teeny-bopper movies opposite Maja Salvador and Angelica Panganiban, isa isang revelation sa movie. Kay Ina, i think it's a given; it's already in her genes!
Though, the confrontation scene (the gate scene in particular) was sooooooo melodramatic and long (and dragging) for me.
Pero, naging pambawi naman sa akin ang eksena na nagyayakapan / napapaalaman na ang magkasintahan na walang palitan ng mga salita.
i think, that was the most powerful scene in the movie.
Aside from these, the music is great. Well, actually, biased lang talaga ako sa kahit anong Diego Mapa composition. :-)

Don't get me wrong, i'm jade castro fan (nakatatak na ata sa noo ko iyon)...

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks micmic.

Raya said...

On the other hand, if Endo were quote-unquote a political film, one would end up puking at an excess. The subtlety was a brilliant move and made accessible to numbers, the only thing a crossover film could suggest.

Oggs Cruz said...

I agree Raya,

I don't think Endo is meant to be political; it is humanity it celebrates, but in the backdrop of a very political issue.

micmic said...

yeah, i guess mali yung term ko na: strong political statement ng pelikula.
mas appropriate siguro ang term na: possible socio-political discourse ng pelikula
... na hinahanap ko bilang isang manonood na may mga biases sa mga indie na pelikula.
:-)

Oggs Cruz said...

Salamat ulit micmic,

I thought that there were socio-political discourses in the film, very subtle though --- wrapped underneath the metaphor of romantic relationships; which as everything that translates into our present contemporary setting of call centers, easy money, fastfood and e-mail, has turned transient, instant, and easy.

teeth said...

I watched it. And it was good.

I wonder whenever will those mainstream cinema productions ever produce something to the effect of what these ndie films show.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks teeth,

Oh, sometimes the big studios get lucky. Cathy Molina-Garcia's "You Are The One," for example, or heck, even Joey Reyes' "Kasal Kasali Kasalo."

Adam said...

Oggs,

Not knowing Tagalog beyond a few helpful (and not so helpful) phrases, I had to watch this w/o getting 99.99 percent of the dialogue, so my comments should be taken with mountains of thought. Still, with knowledge of genre and contrasting with experiences of my co-workers here, I felt a wonderful film. Look forward to watching it again with subtitles at a festival near me rather than me near a festival.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Adam for dropping by,

I'm glad you got to see this gem; and to think that despite not being proficient in Tagalog, you still got to see that the film is special, is a testament to the film's magic. I really hope this film gets shown in festivals abroad, and won't die with the festival that helped fund it (like most other Cinemalaya films that didn't get lucky like Maximo Oliveros, etc.)