Time Out New York Project: Issue #733, October 15-21, 2009
Dir. Adolfo Alix Jr. 2008. N/R. 90mins. In Tagalog, with subtitles. Anita Linda, Jason Abalos, Joem Bascon.
Veteran Filipino performer Anita Linda never quite tops her character’s entrance—coming upon a neighbor in very public labor and helping to birth the child. But there’s enough experience and world-weariness in her lined face to hold our attention throughout Adolfo Alix Jr.’s Adela.
The film follows Adela over the course of 24 hours. It’s her 80th birthday and she simply wants to celebrate with her family in the small shack she occupies on a Cavite City garbage dump. Yet distractions pile up: Government protestors want Adela to join their cause; a radio broadcast stokes a melancholy remembrance of her days as a voice actor; several acquaintances insist she join them for their own celebrations.
It’s obvious from the start that Adela will end this day alone, and despite Linda’s committed portrayal, the film’s air of predictable inevitability never subsides. Alix knows how to frame a shot to emphasize his character’s ever-shifting emotional states, but there’s something missing, an elemental sense of space that would better complement the heroine’s figure-in-a-landscape distress. Adela’s troubles feel slight and underdeveloped in the face of the world around her; it’s all too appropriate, in the end, that nature swallows her whole.—Keith Uhlich