PEP REVIEW: Padyak ponders on the meaning of life


Padyak isnow showing starting today, March 4, exclusively at Robinsons GalleriaIndieSine. Starring Jay Aquitania (in photo), this indie film features apedicab driver who is contemplating suicide.



At his age, Noel (Jay Aquitania)is supposed to be in school cycling through Algebra and Biology, and not on themean streets of Manila. But when his father died suddenly, he was forced tostop school and work as a pedicab driver instead. Armed with his ardent faith,he works diligently to save money for his college tuition. But no matter howhard he works, his measly earnings could only get him so far.

Noel's cycle of life comprises only half of the film. Theother half is devoted to three seemingly unrelated sub-stories sandwiched inbetween our hero's exploits. It is a sweeping montage of different peoplecaught up in the ruckus of life. Some face life-or-death situations, somewrestle with their sanity, while some are drenched in misunderstandings thatcould possibly tear them apart from their loved ones.

Each sub-story is given apersonality of its own. The first vignette is wicked and gritty. Minda (RitaAvila) is a neurotic drug addict who takes pleasure on physically and sexuallyabusing her driver turned lover Ronnie (Arnold Reyes). Ronnie, on the otherhand, is having an affair with their househelp Evelyn (Mercedes Cabral). Incontrast to the foreboding mood of the aforementioned, the second vignetteappears bright and breezy. With the help of her mother (Angel Jacob), Charie(Sabrina Man) plans to throw a surprise birthday party for her dad (EmilioGarcia). Lastly, the final vignette is somewhat psychedelic and experimental.It follows the travails of Manolo (Baron Geisler) as he attempts to tame hisown demon. This mentally unstable law graduate fights his inner self whoprovokes him to commit a terrible act.

Back to the main story, Noel eventually faces a series oftragedies that strike the people who matter to him like his mother Pacita (IrmaAdlawan), best friend Baste (Mcoy Fundales), childhood sweetheart Nadia (HazelAnn Mendoza), and newfound friend Helga (Katherine Luna). He soon finds himselfcontemplating on his purpose in life and essence in this frenzied world. As hestands one jump away from the balcony that claimed Helga's life, suicide offersitself as the most convenient way to bail him out of his misery. Should he keepkicking his way through life or should he just wave the white flag and call itquits? Will the world be any different without him: a mere pedicab driver?

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As we wonder whether or not thesub-stories are linked to Noel, Padyak explores the mysteries of lifeand man's interconnectedness with each other. The film is an ode to the circleof life as it bursts with philosophical anecdotes and personal reflections.Aside from the compelling screenplay and peculiar narrative structure, theexecution is also laudable. The musical score and cinematography complementsthe distinctive feel of each story. For example, during Manolo's sub-story, thescore is ominous and the camerawork is restless and frantic, thus implying thatdanger is brewing.

Having 13 actors fighting for theirfair share of the limelight will be a daunting task for any filmmaker. Butsince director Aloy Adlawan knows the strengths of his actors and theimportance of his characters in pushing the development of the film forward, hewas able to utilize everyone properly. It's a great ensemble cast composed ofpromising names in the industry, but it is Baron Geisler who really stood outdespite his limited screen time. As Manolo, he was required to act childish andfiendish at the same time. With Baron's understanding of the inner conflicts ofhis character, we see Manolo as both pitiful and terrifying. An intense andconvincing performance indeed. Moreover, Rita Avila and Hazel Ann Mendoza alsoshine in their respective roles.

However, the film fumbles towardsthe end trying to explain everything as if the filmmaker doesn't trust hisaudience to figure out the message being imparted to them. It stabs my heart tolisten to Noel's realizations being narrated. Well, that's just me nitpicking.Overall, Padyak is a great movie. Aloy Adlawan is a director-visionaryto watch out for. This must-see indie film is a tour-de-force showcase and anengrossing mantra to life.

Padyak is written,directed, and produced by Aloy Adlawan (Roomboy, Signos, Condo) underBreaking the Box Productions. The screenplay won third place during the 2008Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. It is now showing startingtoday, March 4, exclusively at Robinsons Galleria IndieSine and willsoon open in other theaters.

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