Raymond “RS” Francisco and Ronwaldo Martin topbill the Sinag Maynila 2017 entry Bhoy Intsik. Judging from the first sequence of the film, one would think it was going to be a fast-paced shoot-me-up action flick. But it turns out to be something with more heart at the core.
The first sequence has the lives of Bhoy (RS Francisco) and Marlon (Ronwaldo Martin) almost literally collide. The two smalltime felons are at odds with each other from the very start. Their banter is natural and rhythmic. Neither actor buckles in front of the other and their chemistry is palpable.
The story is set largely in the midst of a cemetery--where life exists amid the dead and decaying--and a trash dump--where from the squalor and filth, children come forth into the world. It shows slices of life on the broken streets and narrow alleyways, with corruption festering like rotten fish.
Bhoy is a gay hustler who is streetsmart but also compassionate. RS Francisco plays him in such a way that he is not slimy or slick, but you have to like him and root for him to succeed. A particular scene early in the movie shows him feeding the neighborhood children some lugaw, not because he is running for office, but just because it is his advocacy.
Ronwaldo's Marlon is a petty thief who also works as a runner for some local gun-toting drug lords. He lives--or at least sleeps--alone in an abandoned shell of a bus. It is hard not to feel for him too, as in another scene, after a day of stealing, he gives away his merienda to a little boy who seems hungrier than he.
The younger brother of Coco Martin already shows signs of depth, he shows desperation and loneliness. He is less convincing in the scenes with sweetheart Hannah (played by Elora Espano), so that we are left guessing whether he feels the same for the assertive and aggressive girl.
Elora bares her breasts for this movie as she seduces Marlon on top of a nitso (tomb).
The talented tandem is supported by stellar performances by Jim Pebanco, Tony Mabesa, Mon Confiado, Shyr Valdes, and Mike Lloren.
The story by Ronaldo Carballo is gripping. It is deeply rooted in present day Philippine society but resists being a mere reimagining of headlines, but tells a story that calls out to every viewer. Many scenes reveal things about the characters, rather than resulting to dialogue simply saying them.
Bhoy Intsik is not composed only of depressing scenes. The film reflects Filipino humor that makes light even of less than favorable situations. There is even a series of male “beauty pageants,” one of which is called “Ginoong Sementeryo.”
There are tender moments when the relationship between Bhoy and Marlon evolve and develop until they forge a bond that is unique. Until the end of the movie, the strong storytelling and characterization do not falter, save for some scenes that are either cut abruptly or run a few minutes too long.
Capturing the filth of the cemetery community, mountain of trash, and dirty seashore, the cinematography still catches some glimpses of beauty in the sunset or the night. This heightens the emotions that are stirred up by scenes and the actors.
Director Joel Lamangan proves to be in his element in this portrayal of real characters in the real world, here and now. The twists in the story towards the end are simply masterful.
Bhoy Intsik, one of the five full-length entries of the 2017 Sinag Maynila Film Festival, is being shown in SM Megamall, SM North EDSA, Gateway, and Glorietta 4 until March 14, 2017.
(Read: PEP Guide to Sinag Maynila 2017 entries)
Ed's Note: The 'PEP Review' section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.