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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.

Apr 20, 2023



BRILLANTE MENDOZA has made himself a brand after wearing so many accolades abroad, including the Cannes Filmfest best director award for “Kinatay”, which was really a well conceived and well crafted crima-drama, and after Jaclyn Jose won as Cannes best actress for his “Ma Rosa”.  

And this is reason why so many people, including us, had high expectations from his recent Summer Metro Filmfest entry, “Apag”. 

We asked those who have watched it how they find the movie and most of them are so disappointed. The common comment is: “Bakit naman pinatay lahat?”  

And that’s true. “Apag” is really a feel bad movie.  

We intentionally did not review “Apag” while the filmfest was going as we would say something negative about it.

But now, we’ll just view it in hindsight and we know Direk Brillante is open-minded enough to know that we mean well with our observations about the movie.  

“Apag” is about guilt when Coco Martin as Rafael is distracted by his cellphone and figures in a vehicular accident that killed a man and injured his daughter after they all just came from the market. 

His dad, Alfredo (Lito Lapid), took the blame for what happened and goes to prison. Why Coco easily agreed to this set up is not fully explained and he just felt even more guilty because of it.   

We learn later that his mother, Elisa (Jaclyn Jose), is merely the second wife of Alfredo and his kids from his first wife cannot accept her as she was just a waitress in their home that serves as an events place. 

We also learn later that Coco, for reasons not so clear, is separated from his own wife, Shaina Magdayao, who lives abroad with their daughter. 

Shaina has also found a new love, Joseph Marco in a thankless, practically non-speaking role. 

When Shaina and family come for a visit, Coco tries to win her back and kisses her but she rejects him.  But this subplot has no integral bearing to the story proper at all.

Another important character is Nita (Gladys Reyes), the widow of the man Coco accidentally killed. 

When Jaclyn talks to her to offer money as compensation for her husband’s death, she was rightfully insulted and said she prefers justice. 

Then, all of a sudden, we see Gladys and her children already all working as servants for Jaclyn and Coco, including the sister of her husband, Chedeng (Mercedes Cabral), who’s always shown acting strangely on the sidelights so you immediately surmise that she’s up to doing some mischief. 

How Gladys suddenly changed her mind and became chummy with Coco and family is not at all explained to us.

What happened to her feelings of anger and resentment for the death of her husband? 

Gladys and Coco has a touching reconciliation scene and soon after this, Nita cooks a feast (the English title of the film) with several mouth-watering Pampango dishes for Coco, Lito, Jaclyn and Lito’s mom, Gina Pareno. 

It would have been a perfect ending for the film if Coco invited Gladys and family to share the feast with them and they all eat together. This will indicate that forgiveness has really taken place between the two families. 

But instead, Coco and family all end up dead, poisoned by the fatal feast consisting of deadly dishes that are supposed to be a tribute to Kapampangan cuisine.  

We heard that the movie has a different ending for audiences abroad in the international filmfests where it was shown, so we don’t know why DIrek Brillante chose to punish us with a very dark ending that will surely turn most viewers off.

Honestly, we were not at all affected by the movie. 

“Apag” just holds back at every potential dramatic turn, like the director is afraid to take a risk in showing compelling, authentic sentiments as his films might be accused of resorting to melodrama. 

He just keeps on gripping the emotional reins very tightly when he could have loosened them a bit for the audience to be able to relate better with his characters. 

What happens is he just skims the surfaces of his characters and resorts to storytelling shortcuts that defies narrative logic. 

It’s common knowledge that he directs his films without a script (although for this, Arianna Martinez is given credit as scriptwriter) and this maybe the reason why there are ellipses in his narrative and you as a viewer are just supposed to connect the dots. 

This is apparent even in the films he made for Vivamax, like “Sisid”, where Paolo Gumabao and Vince Rillon are suddenly seen making love when how their homosexual relationhip with each other was not even properly developed.   

Even the films directed by the protege directors of Direk Brillante for Vivamax are not that impressive, so we are praying his next projects will bring back his superior craft as a filmmaker so that he will not entirely lose his brand as one of the world's esteemed filmmakers.