Saturday, August 01, 2009

Ang Nerseri (2009)

Ang Nerseri (Vic Acedillo, Jr., 2009)
English Title: The Nursery

Humanity has an innate fascination for stories where characters triumph despite their incapacity; and childhood, with all its appurtenant limitations such as the supposed insufficiency in maturity, physical capability, and moral discernment, simply makes for good cinema. More specifically, the forced resilience of children, much more than their inherent innocence, has been the ample subject of many well-regarded films. In Francois Truffaut's 400 Blows (1959), Antoine Doinel's imperfect coming-of-age concludes in an austere note with the film's iconic final freeze frame of Antoine's face as he reaches the limits of living a life on the run. Trapped between the wide sea and the constricted life, resulting from his derelict childhood, that he is about to live, Antoine is simply fearful and anguished, as can be gleaned from his face. His bleak perception of the adult world and the harsh repercussions of such perception, define the palpable disconnection, universal and timely, between the child and adults, arising specifically from the failure of adults.

Locally, the same failure of adults force the young protagonists of Maryo J. de los Reyes' Magnifico (2003), where a boy unknowingly bears the burden of trying to ease his little town's poverty, and Aureaus Solito's Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, 2005), where a prepubescent homosexual boy serves as housekeeper to his family of crooks, to bear duties, responsibilities and consequences far greater than what their tender ages require of them. These young protagonists' perception of the adult world is more tolerant, probably because the Filipino culture compels children to share the responsibility of their families. Unlike Truffaut's Antoine, they accede to the oftentimes unfair demands of the cruel world that they will inevitably inherit instead of turning into careless and belligerent rebels. Thus, it can be argued that the emotional resonance of these films is greater or at least, more, considering that the hardships experienced by the characters are borne out of innocence and selflessness, instead of mere immaturity and irresponsibility. Vic Acedillo, Jr.'s Ang Nerseri (The Nursery) seems to spring from the same source as De los Reyes and Solito's films. However, it begs for more than just admiration for its young protagonist, as it manages to deglamorize the child's feat to achieve something more intriguing.

Ang Nerseri, loosely based from writer-director Acedillo's own childhood experiences, imagines siblings, all of whom are either drug dependents or lunatics, that suddenly find themselves abandoned and motherless. Cocoy (Timothy Mabalot), the youngest and seemingly the least crazy of the brood, becomes surrogate parent to his elder siblings; paying regular visits to his brother (Alwyn Uytingco) who is recovering from drug addiction, sends his other abusive brother (Lance Raymundo) to the rehab, and takes care of his catatonic sister (Claudia Enrique). The film mostly centers on Cocoy's escapades, his burgeoning sexual appetite, his worsening psychological state, and his growing detachment from the rest of the world. The film tirelessly meanders around its theme of domestic dysfunction as viewed from the perspective of its young protagonist who leaps from one responsibility to another with the crazed diligence of an obsessive-compulsive individual. Before finally losing steam with its intended redundancy, it attempts to reach a climactic boiling point, only to come full circle and end in an emotionally poignant note.

Acedillo spices the purposely tedious depictions of domestic dysfunction with dry humor. Aside from the attractively acrid wit that pervades the film, it indulges in visual innovations: utilizing orchids as visual metaphors; inverting the screen to show Cocoy's sister's flipped point of view; and finally, filtering all hues from the film except for the blues and the greens. The consequences of such aesthetic playfulness is inevitable. The seeming irrationality of the polarizing visual exercise (Acedillo made use of the video function of the Canon 5-A digital still camera in the shoot, and modified the colors during post-production) might be regarded as artistic masturbation on the part of Acedillo, but it also imposes a vital task to the film's viewers to discern the probable implications (interpretations range from drug use, an incomplete perspective of the world, hopelessness, and a lot more) of the blues and the greens swimming in a frame of dull gray.

The viewers' empathy obviously belongs to Cocoy, who inherits the responsibilities abandoned by his mother (Jaclyn Jose), and becomes the supposed victim of his parent's irresponsibility. Acedillo makes sure that his viewers are thoroughly immersed in his experiences, coursing through the horror of sudden parenthood, the excitement of his first sexual encounter, and the immense frustration resulting from knowing yet denying the painful truth. We are provided with a glimpse of that painful truth only during the film's final sequence. In full color, Cocoy sees his mother removing the orchid seedlings from an empty bottle that serves as nursery. She is quietly distraught, as can be gleaned from the tears flowing from her eyes. At that moment, Cocoy's portrayed suffering because of his mother's absence is given a vantage point outside Cocoy's, and that is of his mother's. While the mother's palpable sadness is surely not be enough to absolve her from neglecting and abandoning her family, it provides ample understanding that her failure and subsequent surrender is not without a tremendous ache. This is the same ache that Cocoy painfully witnesses, struggles to understand, forcefully denies and subsequently acts on, without benefit of a conclusive triumph or a hurtless defeat.


Anonymous said...

great review. this is my best film among the main competition entries.

pren ni myself

Oggs Cruz said...

Thank you, pren ni myself.