SHIFT (Siege Ledesma, 2013)
Estela Alano (Yeng Constantino) doesn't find joy and fulfillment in her work as a call center agent anymore. That is until a senior agent, Trevor (Felix Roco) is assigned to mentor her, and Estela quickly and unknowingly gets attracted to him.
Trevor is fun to be with. A great confidante. Humorous. Charming. Thoughtful. Estela is head over heels. Suddenly, work became really interesting with Trevor around.
Estela may have found the perfect man: emotionally available, tender, and loyal. The only catch is, and Estela is perfectly aware of this- Trevor is gay.
SHIFT, the film debut of singer/musician Yeng Constantino is the film of our times, vividly defining an industry that has become indelible with modern Philippine culture, as represented by Yeng's call center agent character Estela who like many others of her real-life counterparts, is currently on a path of self-discovery.
This is where Estela encounters a sexual awakening, one of the many hardships she will eventually face. Her attraction to Trevor was unintentional, which at first is funny and sweet, but gradually turns into a bitter conflict, because really most attractions are unintentional, and as to why Estela would fall for a guy who clearly desires other guys, and may not even reciprocate her affection is anybody's guess. The heart is a labyrinth of mysteries.
I liked how SHIFT gave us the option midway into the film to think whether or not Estela and Trevor will end up together in the end. It was a toss between a fairy tale and realism. But them ending up together or not is not the end the film seeks closure for.
While Estela battles with her heart and her reason, she also struggles with finding her place among the employed. Where will she be truly happy? What job should she take? Where should she base her life decisions on?
I guess for any grown person to have seen the film and not at least have reflected into their own struggles with careers and relationships is either on morphine or in denial. The title itself bears many of the film's points: shift in sexual preference, shift in relationship stereotyping, career shift, shift in outlook, to name some.
Of all the entries in this year's Cinema One Originals Film Festival, SHIFT seems to be the easiest to digest, and not just because of its premise which might even be a factor for a possible mainstream run, but also because on its own, SHIFT is uncluttered, unpretentious, and unapologetic. This is one film about opportunities and realities that treats its characters as real human beings, and paints a picture of the call center industry with great respect.
Kudos also to Yeng Constantino, who churns out a performance so endearing, it's a wonder why she only sought acting duties only now. Yeng's portrayal of Estela is so filled with equal parts charm and heartbreak that her presence lights up the screen every time, and her red hair unearths memories of Franka Potente in RUN LOLA RUN, or Jennifer Garner in ALIAS, if you prefer.
Special mention also is warranted to Alex Medina, who even in a brief supporting role is hilariously memorable. I won't tell you what his role is because it defeats the purpose of the enjoyment.
Also, almost everybody is raving about SHIFT's soundtrack, and for good reason. There are enough tracks in the film to get yourself lost into, like a person falling in love, not knowing what to do.
Life is more exciting when its is about surprises, unexpected encounters, and the incredible feeling of not knowing what comes next. SHIFT takes us on that journey and allows us to get lost in madness, even for an hour or so.