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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 10, 2016

'Moonlight Over Baler', A Well Crafted And Well Acted Old Fashioned Love Story From Direk Gil Portes, With Splendid Performance Of Beth Oropesa In The Lead Role

 DIRECTOR GIL PORTES has come up with an old fashioned love story in “Moonlight Over Baler”, written by Eric Ramos and produced by T-Rex Productions of Rex Tiri. It offers beautiful shots of Baler scenery and a sterling performance from Elizabeth Oropesa as Fidela, a school teacher who just retired and who hasn’t forgotten her first love who perished during the Second World War.

As a young woman, Fidela is played by the beautiful Sophie Albert. She’s about to be wed to a soldier, Vin Abrenica as Nestor, but before their wedding took place, the war erupts and Nestor has to defend our country from the Japanese invaders, promising to come back after the war to fulfill their wedding. Fidela waits and waits, but sadly, he never returned.

The main story is set in 1986 right after the EDSA Revolution and the past is told in flashbacks. A young Japanese photographer, Kenji, visits Baler and the now elderly Fidela is shocked when she sees him as he is the splitting image of Nestor. They become good friends and people gossip about them, but Fidela is not the least affected because the real object of Kenji’s affections is a young woman named Rory (Ellen Adarna), and Fidela even helps him woo her by teaching him how to speak in Tagalog.

When Kenji’s rival over Rory beats him up and he gives her up to leave Baler, it is even Fidela who urges him to fight for his love. If you love romantic films with a tinge of nostalgic sadness and sentimentally that's connected with the past and with an elderly leading lady, like “The Notebook” (with the underrated Gena Rowlands), “From Time to Time” (with the great Maggie Smith), “Atonement” and “Mrs. Dalloway” (both with a touching performance from Vanessa Redgrave), then you’ll surely find some affinity with this film. The theme song here is the Ilocano folk song “O Naraniag a Bulan (O Maliwanag na Buwan, with Tagalog lyrics by the late Levi Celerio)” which is used extensively and is heard in various versions, including the terribly out of tune version by Vin Abrenica who does not look like Japanese at all.

We seriously wonder, though, how “Moonlight Over Baler, with stories set in the 40s and 80s, would fare at today’s box office. How would it sit with today’s millennial audiences who grew up with social media and seem to prefer watching movies with established love teams like Aldub or Kathniel? How would it be accepted by moviegoers today who’ve been more attuned to the cookie cutter mold of movies done by Star Cinema with its surefire crowd pleasing scenes and elements?

 Will current viewers appreciate and support a fairly well crafted, well acted movie like “Moonlight in Baler”, which also has fine technical values, even if its sensibility is not exactly suited to theirs? Will the movie even make a connection with the members of the screening committee of the Metro-Manila Filmfest and make it an official entry? Well, we just want to be positive and here's hoping and praying that “Moonlight Over Baler” will find the audience that it surely deserves.