‘Sakal’

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Actors Arnold Reyes and Oliver Aquino portray the film’s conflicted gay couple

Actors Arnold Reyes and Oliver Aquino portray the film’s conflicted gay couple

A review of ‘Kasal’
Layering the complexity of marriage with homosexuality makes for interesting conversation, one that the movie Kasal (directed by Joselito Altarejos, written by Zigcarlo Dulay and Altarejos) sought to have. Of course this can also simply lead to a dead end. Lawyer Sherwin (Arnold Reyes) answers the question of marriage via the law: gay marriage does not exist in this country.

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But this answer does not work for Paolo (Oliver Aquino). This is after all a time when the more educated and financially mobile gay relationships can go through commitment ceremonies, with some of the trappings of the conventional wedding. This is compromise, as it is reminder to us all—gay, lesbian, heterosexual—that more than legality, what life with someone requires is commitment.

Which as it turns out is the primary question in Kasal, one that makes it the oldest conflict in a love story we might ever see really. This movie wanted to stretch as far as it would go, and I mean that it decided to riddle the movie with notions of commitment. It was all too trite.

Sherwin is not just a lawyer, but an annulment lawyer; Paolo directs films and advertisements, but also wedding videos. The activity for the day is to travel to Batangas to attend Sherwin’s younger sister’s wedding. A wedding that was utterly questionable because that sister and her groom looked 16—it wouldn’t even have been legal.

But the real crisis of this film is that its characters were not imbued with more reason for being. Sherwin didn’t seem to be concerned about being in the closet though it was the narrative of their visit to Batangas; instead he was preoccupied with Paolo’s infidelity like it happened yesterday. Paolo, while later revealed to be the one whose main concern is Sherwin’s commitment, was utterly one-dimensional that at some point he just seemed like a brat, insisting on marriage like it’s a pair of shoes he wants to buy.

This movie was also technically flawed, it was a surprise it was part of the Director’s Showcase. All interior scenes were dark even when they happened in the light of day; the shifts from shots of the road (which were aplenty) to the stopovers on the way to Batangas (where they had breakdowns about the infidelity of years ago), were not set-up properly, be it by the script or the images.

It was obvious this movie wanted to work with the silences that are in the most real of relationships, and wanted to make a statement about long-term romances unraveling with the weight of dishonesties and expectations. It is one that many of us might be able to relate to no matter our gender or sexuality. But a movie that seeks to discuss the complexity of romantic relationships, of sex and love, needs characters that are multi-dimensional too—where relationships are more complicated in the long term precisely because familiarity allows us to unload baggage and unravel before the other. It also required actors who could act the hell out of their characters, which this movie did not have. Even Reyes, whose acting mettle has been proven before was given so little to work with here.

This movie ends with a prolonged scene of Paolo shooting a gay couple exchanging vows in a commitment ceremony. It was unnecessary, a non-punch line really, to the break-up that happened after their Batangas trip. Because what was the point but to say that it works out for some and not for others? Is that not the premise of all romances?

Kasal as such is but a tired old love story, which was also way too long, had an unbelievable wedding at its center, and was badly edited. It is beyond me why this was screened at all. That it won in the Cinemalaya X Awards? Consider me floored.

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