Carmen (Pokwang) and Mercury (Bret Jackson) meet when the the young man stumbles upon the former just when she is about to close down her struggling eatery at the foot of Mt. Arayat.
Believing he may be her lucky charm, she takes him in and provides him the shelter he begs for, in exchange of any service he can offer. The proceedings unfold in a satisfying manner, allowing an amusingly awkward and complicated relationship blossom between the two, but this could also be the start of the film's struggle to handle its own inadequacy.
There is a part of the film's charm that fails to linger, getting you at one point only to lose you on another. There is a portion of the narrative that doesn't line up well with logic, and gives way to unwarranted turn-outs and empty chuckles. But that's a part you may find easy to shrug off once the film's humor and sweetness start to work.
As the cook pampers the young man with all the care she can provide, the latter begins to feel a sense of confinement and being controlled. There is a moment in the film, a powerful one, where Mercury finally pulls out, and it feels more endearing than funny. The script manages to pull off a surprising amount of entertainment that is filled both with laughter and a heart-tugging sentiment.
Carmen and Mercury's relationship is made vague by its complexity and awkwardness, but it becomes clearer at one point, one which may also be where the film is most moving and affectionate.
Pokwang shares the biggest chunk of the movie's comic effort, and while Bret Jackson miserably lacks the capacity to provide a similar intensity, it doesn't seem appropriate to dismiss his performances as plainly terrible. The humor is actually most affectionate when they are together.
One particular scene, where Mercury grabs Carmen's boobs, may ignite a whole cinema to explode. Such scene, though may seem awkward, is tastefully done, its chuckles rightfully earned and motivated.
There is something in its choice of palettes that create a visual expression that doesn't quite conform with the film's very intent, and while it amuses, it leaves the audience wanting for a more appropriate one. It relies instead on the dialogues and the characters' take of their situation, to set its mood and intended tone, and while it doesn't feel complete, it mostly comes out enough.
Mercury is Mine is a film of compromised beauty. There is a tangible appeal in this John Paul Laxamana-directed comedy that plunges us into the oddly entertaining world of a solitary woman seeking for companionship, but it struggles to survive its own craziness.
Similar themes have been consistently embraced by the traditional and independent cinema, but this Cinemalaya 2016 entry aspires to unearth a new layer, enticing us with a bracing examination of an unlikely relationship between two different people both longing for purpose. There is a big part of its humor that almost always feels forced, but awkwardly entertaining at the same time, a portion of it seemingly thriving on its peculiarity.
A film of honest intention that celebrates Kapampangan cuisine and tradition, Mercury is Mine is most aptly an entertaining portrait of a parent and a child, stricken with narrative blemishes, that turn out to be necessary to allow the film's beautiful moments to shine.
Mercury is Mine is one of nine full-length entries competing in the 12th edition of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival that will run from August 5-14, 2016.
(To learn more about this year’s entries, read: Cinemalaya 2016 loses one entry; Nora Aunor, Judy Ann Santos among stars featured in 12th edition)
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.