Review: Padyak (3.5/5)

At his age, Noel (Jay Aquitania) is supposed to be in school cycling through Algebra and Biology, and not on the mean streets of Manila. But when his father met sudden death, he was forced to stop school and work as a pedicab driver instead. Armed with his ardent faith, he works diligently to save money for his college tuition. But no matter how hard he works, his measly earning could only get him so far.

Noel’s cycle of life comprise of only half of the film. The other half is devoted to three seemingly unrelated sub-stories sandwiched in between our hero’s exploits. It is a sweeping montage of different people caught up in the ruckus of life. Some face life or death situations, some wrestle with their sanity, while some are drenched in misunderstandings that could possibly tear them apart from their loved ones.

Each sub-story is given a personality of its own. The first vignette is wicked and gritty. Minda (Rita Avila) is a neurotic drug addict who takes pleasure on physically and sexually abusing her driver turned lover Ronnie (Arnold Reyes). Ronnie, on the other hand, is having an affair with their househelp Evelyn (Mercedes Cabral). In contrast to the foreboding mood of the aforementioned, the second vignette appears bright and breezy. With the help of her mother (Angel Jacob), Charie (Sabrina Man) plans to throw a surprise birthday party for her dad (Emilio Garcia). Lastly, the final vignette is somewhat psychedelic and experimental. It follows the travails of Manolo (Baron Geisler) as he attempts to tame his own demon. This mentally unstable law graduate fights his inner self who provokes him to commit a terrible act.

Back to the main story, Noel eventually gets buried in a series of tragedy that strikes the people who mattered to him like his mother Pacita (Irma Adlawan), best friend Baste (Mcoy Fundales), childhood sweetheart Nadia (Hazel Ann Mendoza), and newfound friend Helga (Katherine Luna). He soon finds himself contemplating on his purpose in life and essence in this frenzied world. As he stands one jump away from the balcony that claimed Helga’s life, suicide offers itself as the most convenient way to bail him out of his misery. Should he keep kicking his way through life or should he just wave the white flag and call it quits? Will the world be any different without him – a mere pedicab driver?

As we wonder whether or not the sub-stories are linked to Noel, “Padyak” explores the mysteries of life and man’s interconnectedness with each other. The film is an ode to the circle of life as it bursts with philosophical anecdotes and personal reflections. Aside from the compelling screenplay and peculiar narrative structure, the execution is also laudable. The musical score and cinematography complements the distinctive feel of each story. For example, during Manolo’s sub-story, the score is ominous and the camerawork is restless and frantic, thus implying that danger is brewing.

Having 13 actors fighting for their fair share of the limelight will be a daunting task for any filmmaker. But since Director Aloy Adlawan knows the strengths of his actors and the importance of his characters in pushing the development of the film forward, he was able to utilize everyone properly. It’s a great ensemble cast composed of promising names in the industry, but it is Baron Geisler who really stood out despite his limited screen time. As Manolo, he was required to act childish and fiendish at the same time. With Baron’s understanding of the inner conflicts of his character, we see Manolo as both pitiful and terrifying. An intense and convincing performance indeed. Moreover, Rita Avila and Hazel Ann Mendoza also shine in their respective roles.

However, the film fumbles towards the end trying to explain everything as if the filmmaker doesn’t trust his audience to figure out the message being imparted to them. It stabs my heart to listen to Noel’s realizations being narrated. Well, that’s just me nitpicking. Overall, “Padyak” is a great movie. Aloy Adlawan is a director-visionary to watch out for. This must-see indie film is a tour-de-force showcase and an engrossing mantra to life.

“Padyak” is written, directed, and produced by Aloy Adlawan (“Roomboy”, “Signos”, “Condo”) under Breaking the Box Productions. The screenplay won third place during the 2008 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

* published in PEP


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