ROMEO AT JULIET (Adolf Alix, Jr.)
There is much to love in Adolf Alix's ROMEO AT JULIET, a film based on an unpublished novel by Jean Altavas. For instance, there's the heavy use of strong colors a la Almodovar or Wong Kar Wai, to highlight the emotional context of the story, which isn't typical Adolf Alix. There was a lot of play with the cinematography and editing (the split screens are most apparent) and the musical score by Teresa Barrozo is hypnotic.
Sadly, there is also much to dislike. The musical score, however beautiful, cues in inappropriately about once or twice. There is too much exposition on the characters' back stories, which in a way felt like spoon feeding, or preachy if you will. Most of all the abrupt cuts from one scene to the next diminishes, if not completely destroys any piece of emotional attachment the viewer could have with what's going onscreen.
Mention the names Romeo and Juliet in one sentence or phrase, and connotations of "love story", "Shakesperean", and "tragedy" surface. Alix's take on Altavas' contemporary romantic woe is in equal parts a love story, complicated, and tragic, and while this unconventional tale of modern relationships is welcome, it seems that the road to telling it is filled with so much clutter.
First, you have a smoldering hot (and equally talented!) supporting actress who overshadows the lead actress. As a high class prostitute who enjoys life for what it is, Max Eigenmann gives a decent performance worthy enough of a lead role in a separate movie.
Second, while the cheesiness in the first half of the movie is cute (bordering on painfully bearable), Victor Basa cannot act as hell (in this portion, at least.)
Third, I did not see any emotional struggle with Alessandra de Rossi's character during that period where she is supposed to be chewed whole by guilt and unimaginable fear, and at the same time be endlessly happy for her newfound love that promises emotional security.
Then there's the parental element to which the film's thesis states that parents' treatment and upbringing of their kids govern their kids' fate later on. This is not entirely true. The story's exploration of this Freudian concept seems one-sided.
Meanwhile, there are breaths of fresh air in the movie. Daria Ramirez as a kind and caring mamasan is a welcome departure from the traditional cinematic portrayal of mamasans as cruel and exploitative. In a way the film uses Ramirez's character as an ironic device where Max Eigenmann and Alessandra de Rossi's characters seek comfort and advice, a role which should have been played by their birth mothers (Rosanna Roces and Bing Pimentel, respectively).
There is much reference on religion, and its strict and choking effect on familial decisions, say the way a child should be brought up. The film strives to change the way children should be raised by their family, openly condemning corporal punishment, instillment of fear, and most especially, child molestation.
Inside ROMEO AT JULIET is a sincere story about parents and children, of lovers and friends, and of uneasy relationships built because of uneasy circumstances. My only regret is that it should have been told in a more intimate, less confusing manner.
In all fairness, Victor Basa manages to cope with the tension and emotional threshold needed by his character during the climax scene where it all goes dark and seemingly hopeless. Alix, in the integral version of the film holds no restraints with the amount of blood shed, or the profane words used, which is admirable because it gives the film a level of maturity that is completely lacking in contemporary local mainstream dramas. The issues presented in ROMEO AND JULIET are in all aspects, serious and should in turn be taken seriously.
On a footnote, Jay Manalo had two lines to say in this film, and his voice sounded "alien" (literally). I don't know if it's the sound system at UP Vidoetheque. Everything else seems OK. Also, his character was dismissed easily as a villain, without any hint of redemption. He looked like a total douche saying sorry to Alessandra's character.