The synopsis of Ralston Jover’s “Bomba” (The Bomb) tells the story of a deaf-mute man who has a 15-year-old lover, earning Jover the Best Director award in this year’s Sinag Maynila. Statutory rape is what comes to mind. But if you watch the movie and have no idea about the synopsis, you will see no hint of a romantic relationship between the two.
Pipo (Allen Dizon), a deaf-mute man in his ’40s, is struggling to survive the harsh urban life with Cy (Best Actress winner Angelie Nicole Sanoy). The two live in a dump, atop a mountain of trash overlooking the sea—the scene romantic and scenic.
Knowing the synopsis beforehand, you dreadfully anticipate intimate scenes between the two, but the film never gives a hint of a twisted, sickening relationship between Pipo and Cy, but a co-dependent, domesticated bliss.
Ralston gives us snippets of a cozy, settled relationship, complete with spats, tender moments of caring, and a continuous struggle to survive poverty. We also see snatches of a mysterious man called Ben (Allan Paule) that Pipo tries to avoid but puts a watchful eye on.
Dizon is superb as the deaf-mute Pipo. He transforms into an entirely different man—both physically and internally, earning him the Best Actor prize. And like in “Hamog,” Ralston’s urban-poor characters look authentic. Dizon looks as if he did not take a bath in weeks for his role, the grime deeply embedded in his skin.
But what this film lacks is character development. Dizon is obviously the titular “The Bomb.” A ticking time-bomb. These little unfortunate things piling up and leading to his inevitable explosion. But you don’t sense Pipo’s extraordinary struggle. His disability doesn’t even feel like a curse or a burden, but just a mere nuisance that is far easier than living with asthma or migraine. His poverty is not extraordinary; he’s no different from millions of Filipinos. He does not stand out.
Neither do you experience his and Cy’s important co-dependence. Their life is depicted in fragmented episodes, mainly focused on getting Pipo a stable job as well as their little domestic fights. You don’t feel attached to these characters. You barely know them except their little secret: they are not father-and-daughter.
After a long time, you find yourself still not caring— simply observing their daily lives with indifference and utter boredom. Also, Ralston set the narrative in the peak of Operation Tokhang, and the film exaggeratedly shows a heap of cadavers and numerous coffins, with Pipo even working for a funeral parlor. The filmmkers’ political sentiments comes off preachy, taking away the power of subtlety.
“The Bomb” is mainly stagnant with Pipo and Cy serving as mere backdrop for EJK. It boasts of sharp and keen cinematography by Pipo Domagas, winning him the Best in Cinematography award, plus great performances. Unfortunately, the movie is a very lackluster, hollow experience.
2 out of 5 stars
Sinag Maynila Film Festival: March 7 to 15, 2018, in select SM Cinemas