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Justice is not delayed but could still be denied in this arresting Filipino movie, which tracks a case of domestic abuse with such conviction, it is often easy to forget it’s staged drama rather than documentary. The first half-hour is especially frantic and immersive as it begins with the assault in question. Hard-up Manila mother Joy (Max Eigenmann) is preparing supper for her young daughter, Angel, in their cramped, cluttered little apartment. Her husband Dante (Kristoffer King) returns home drunk. A violent argument quickly erupts, in which Joy is brutally beaten and Dante slashed on the arm with a knife. As the police and women’s protection services intervene, we’re pitched almost in real time through the Manila night: down streets, through homes, into and out of vehicles, through police stations and to a clinic, swept along by agile, up-close, handheld camerawork. Adding to the trauma, Joy and Dante are dealt with practically side by side throughout.
Calm mercifully prevails for a spell after Joy presses charges, although the demands of the Filipino justice system mean each side must gather their own witnesses and negotiate various circles of bureaucratic hell – still conducted through piles of paperwork. The eventual trial is gripping but infuriating: we’re in no doubt that childish, semi-criminal Dante is the guilty party, but his family enlists a smart lawyer who runs rings around the overstretched public prosecutor. There is an ironic twist to this particular case, but is clearly a drop in an ocean of domestic abuse that goes unreported or unpunished. The overall impression is of a legal system more concerned with expediency than justice: chaotic, rushed, patriarchal, under-resourced and open to abuse. Director Raymund Ribay Gutierrez, a protege of local auteur Brillante Mendoza, directs with empathy and energy here; he’s a name to watch.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Verdict review – empathy and urgency in convincing domestic abuse drama | Film