REVIEW | ‘Transit’ earns points for its technical quality

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Hannah Espia's 2013 film 'Transit' is being rescreened by CineLokal this week.

Cinemalaya 2013 Best Picture “Transit” indeed has marked a milestone in Philippine cinema for its quality of filmmaking never before seen in local independent films during its time.

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New Breed Director Hannah Espia explores the plight of OFWs in Israel through the story of one “TNT” Filipino family living in a tiny apartment in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, with their daily struggle to hide their deportable 4-year-old Joshua (Marc Justine Angeles) from the Israeli police.

We are presented with a particular day in the family’s life, which eventually branches out into five stories— the story of each family member (played by Irma Adlawan, Ping Medina, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Marc Justine Angeles, and Mercedes Cabral), with the core elements of identity crisis, alienation, desperation, and the universal condition of overseas Filipino workers.

What remarkably stands out in “Transit” is the brilliant performance of the entire main cast down to the bit roles of Israeli actors. They deliver their lines so naturally and effortlessly conversational—in English, Hebrew and Filipino. There is no longer any sign of acting here, including from newcomers Curtis-Smith and Angeles, which calls to mind Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” (Oscar 2012’s Best Picture), proving Espia to be a master in acting direction.

Another notable cinematic breakthrough of “Transit” is the clean, elegant, and fluid cinematography, making the film a visually satisfying experience, filling you with awe in every smooth shot. The Israeli setting also adds a refreshing change in our local indie films.

The storytelling, though, is where the problem lies. The movie splitting into five stories propelled from one particular day has relegated the film into one unbearably long and boring experience.

The movie going back again and again to the same scenes as the starting point for the next character story feels like Groundhog Day that may test your patience. The movie cannot seem to find another tool for bringing on the next character drama without taking us back to the exact same “core scenes.” Especially when these five stories are not exactly stories, but merely glimpses of who these people are, that a Groundhog Day treatment is unnecessary.

Also, the main drama of “Transit”—the real story—the star of the film and the cause of the entire family’s anxiety, is the little boy Joshua—as proven by the epilogue of factual texts on child deportation, that concocting four more stories, especially Cabral’s, is excessive. If the film only aims to provide glimpses of these five characters, a linear narrative starring Joshua can still succeed, saving us from redundancy and tiredness.

“Transit” triumphs in technical expertise and delivers groundbreaking performances, still deserving your time and money. Yes, a decent premise exists, solid and realistic, with a credible conflict— but the story feels watered down, the storytelling unnecessarily tedious, the lines somewhat weak that you’d rather accommodate a few amateur acting, and even some crude shots, if you can go home with a soul-satisfying experience.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Showing for a week at CineLokal from Dec. 8 to 14, 2017.

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