If you're planning on watching this, prepare yourself. 4 hours and 40 minutes, a minimum of storytelling, mostly documentary-like scenes that can run up to 15 minutes while there's hardly anything happening ('they' might call it contemplative cinema, but I'm not sure this is exactly that), a long intermezzo of parts from an old film without sound, more parts wherein the sound is promptly turned off (mostly when there is singing), a few bits of simple stop-motion; 'Now Showing' will test your patience if you are used to nothing else but Hollywood blockbusters (luckily, I am not). But there is one thing, or person actually, which the film has very much going for it: Rita. I assumed that the film was shot over a long period of time, with the younger Rita and the older Rita being played by the same actress, but I understand that the 'vintage' look of the 'old' parts were manipulated, which brings me to another big plus: the film (for the greater part) really feels like a true slice of life.
In the first scene, we meet the younger Rita (fifteen years old or so), dancing in her bedroom, displaying wonderful energy and positivity. But this is not a happy tale. It helped to read some interesting reviews on the net afterward, but watching this without information (pretty much, anyway) beforehand worked just fine for me. The melancholy which is palpable throughout the film, and the sweet character that Rita really is, really do most of the work. It was also very interesting to notice all sorts of little details that belong in the life of an adolescent girl, a small Christian community in the far east, or big city life in Manila and its suburbs.
The story is not always clear, but that could be intended. For instance, while I assumed that, when Rita is crying on the beach, it was because her father had died, another review suggests something different altogether. And in the last scene(s), when Rita leaves the house, there's only more guessing and assuming: did her mother die? Is she going to her aunt? I'm not sure, anyone can make his or her own educated guesses...
'Now Showing' may be quite a challenge to watch, but I found it to be very rewarding, and humbling.
A good 8 out of 10. Recommended, but not for all.
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