Two elderly women bear the consequences of a crime involving their respective grandsons. One is the victim, the other is the suspect. Both weak and poor, they laboriously solicit money in ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Lola Sepa
Rustica Carpio ...
Lola Puring
...
Ditas
Jhong Hilario ...
Bebong
Ketchup Eusebio ...
Mateo
Benjie Filomeno ...
Domeng
Bobby Jerome Go ...
Jay Jay
Geraldine Villamil ...
Virgie
Nico Nullan ...
Nico
Hope Matriano ...
Linda
Tim Yap ...
TV Game Host
Earl Zanorio ...
Game Show Contestant
Catherine Cornell ...
Snatcher Victim
...
Security Guard
Tess Antonio ...
Factory Office Secretary
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Storyline

Two elderly women bear the consequences of a crime involving their respective grandsons. One is the victim, the other is the suspect. Both weak and poor, they laboriously solicit money in the midst of a storm, one for the victim's burial, the other for the suspect's bail bond. Written by Pusan International Film Festival

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5 May 2010 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Babcia  »

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An interesting failure.
21 April 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

And so we have the opening film of this year's 'Asia Triennial Film Festival' – one of nine films by Filipino director Brillante Mendoza. In the introduction to the showing, the audience were informed that Mendoza is one of a number of directors who make up a kind of 'New Wave' in the cinema of the Philippines – noticeable particularly in that these directors make exclusive use of the digital, hand-held camera. It is an artistic choice.

Unfortunately, however audacious and unique a decision it is, it's not a very pertinent one. I couldn't help feeling throughout the screening that a more classical approach to the photography wouldn't have gone amiss. Some of the scenes work well with Mendoza's approach – in particular, the boat rides across the flooded neighbourhoods of Manila

  • the only way the inhabitants can get around, are well done; but more


often than not, his visual style is incredibly distracting and irritating, often alienating us as an audience from what is happening on screen (especially in the night time scenes or in the interior of houses, the darkness is such that it is quite hard to discern the faces of the characters).

It is worth noting that as the film progresses, the technical aspects of the film also improve. It is strange to have such a contrast in a single movie: there is a scene earlier on in 'Lola' involving a robbery that could be used in any film class to address the issue of inadequate film continuity – I defy anyone who has seen the film to explain in any significant detail exactly what happens in those two minutes. Editing also is painfully clumsy in places – cuts between scenes are often unsubtle and disturb the flow of the narrative.

Yet 'Lola' certainly isn't a bad film. Its merits are significant. Where Mendoza succeeds is in his sincere exploration of the Philippine legal system, and the lives of the two grandmothers in question (one's son is in jail for the murder of the other grandmother's son). Both live in Manila, in poverty, often bracing themselves against the gales and the rain storms, scraping together whatever money they can. For whatever else they are ignorant of in this world, they know all too well the importance of money. It is the reason one boy died, and the other might be given his freedom.

Particularly impressive are the performances by the two leading ladies – both old, ailing, stricken with arthritis, scared and confused by a world moving on without them. It is a shame, given the incredible attention that is given to these ladies by the director, that when the two finally bring themselves to speak to each other, the dialogue – striving to be natural and sincere – actually feels forced, and the scene itself seems rushed. Secondary characters don't have much depth at all – the cutting phrase 'one-dimensional' is frighteningly apt for some of them.

Even as I am writing this review, I can't believe what a shame the consequences of all this are. 'Lola' could have been a great film – all the ingredients are present, in theory. Mendoza is a patient, observant director, dismissing melodrama and striving for emotional honesty while offering a scathing social critique on his homeland, and exploring the poverty of Manila's inhabitants with an earnest compassion. For all my complaining, some of Mendoza's shots are actually quite beautiful – I won't deny it (even if they are few and far between). Those showing the litter and trash infesting the streets and circling wildly in the wind, the funeral procession for the dead boy, a drive through sunlit countryside – all of these spring readily to mind. But if we could potentially have risen above the irritation that the visuals provoke had the film been concisely handled – at nigh on two hours, the fact that the movie is overlong is exacerbated.

I don't want to be overly negative about 'Lola'. I admire Mendoza's efforts, and applaud his minor successes. This kind of film is hard to get right, and he has been brave enough to try and put his own unique stamp on it. The result is admirable in many ways, but as a whole, the movie doesn't quite gel. A somewhat disappointing start for the Asia Triennial Film Festival.


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