Sunday, August 7

Whether the Weather is Fine: In search of refuge

By DAWN DANIELLE D. SOLANO

 

LOSS comes after a storm. In the Philippines, typhoons occur multiple times a year; and Filipinos are expected to rise and smile at these calamities in the name of ‘Filipino resiliency.’ 

As one of this year’s entries in Metro Manila Film Festival, Whether the Weather is Fine (Kun Maupay Man it Panahon) is a debut feature that wholly captures the horrors of super typhoon Yolanda that devastated the region of Eastern Visayas in 2013. Under the direction of Carlo Francisco Manatad, the film tells the story of human tragedy through drama, humor, and magical realism.

The film begins with Miguel (Daniel Padilla) waking to the sight of his ravaged village after the typhoon. Torn-down houses and decaying dead bodies surround him, and it takes him a while before he could come to his senses. He lets the horrendous scene before him sink in before deciding to look for his mother Norma (Charo Santos-Concio). However, he takes a break on his way, and his girlfriend Andrea (Rans Rifol) finds him first. 

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Eventually, the three main characters gather, signaling the story to progress to a darker and dreamlike path. Miguel, Andrea, and Norma plan to flee the province through a ship that will take them to the safe shores of Manila. However, the three decide to split in search of refuge. Norma tells his son and his girlfriend to head straight for the evacuation center while she looks for her ex-husband, who is nowhere to be found. 

In their separate ways, they come face to face with challenges and absurdities. Their separation forces them to deal with other people seeking refuge, making it difficult for the three to meet at the rescue ship boarding to Manila. The characters discover themselves and their reasons for desiring to leave the ‘hellish’ hometown they live in. At the same time, the film shows how people responded to the devastating calamity in various ways. 

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The overused and abused concept of resilience among Filipinos is present in the film. This is shown in how Filipinos bank on their ability to brush every sorrow off with a smile in the face of desolation. The film includes scenes of children playing by the sea and people dancing to bass-boosted music. These seem ridiculous from an outsider’s perspective, as expressed by the main characters’ reactions. However, in a situation where a dog-eat-dog mentality prevails, mundane things such as these are often a relief. 

Furthermore, the film touches upon religion’s influence on people’s actions. When bad events occur, the common, instinctive reaction would be to look beyond what the physical eyes can see. Most people hold on to their faith, so they can feel the Higher Being’s hand moving when everything seems hazy. 

The film adds this touch through scenes of men and women praying to a dilapidated electricity post that looks like a cross. Andrea, who initially thinks of religion as useless, turns into a messianic figure herself, which perfectly fits the film’s style of humor. 

Moreover, Whether the Weather is Fine stands true to its theme of cruelty brought by chaos. Since the beginning, all Miguel wanted was to reunite with his mother to board the ship to safety with her. However, Norma puts her son in a predicament by making a request a good son could never think of doing to his mother. This boiling point is successfully delivered, adding to one of the film’s strongest suits. 

Another strength of the film is its use of a slow-burn style of narration. Manatad’s chosen way of telling the ensemble’s stories fits the film’s genre and themes present in the film. Every turn of events allows audiences to process every emotion laid out by the character. With the absurd elements suddenly appearing in most scenes, the slow-burn aids in making the entirety of the film linger with viewers.

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Certainly, the story’s message will not make its way to the minds of its audience without the actors’ mastery of their roles. Daniel Padilla’s take on Miguel will surprise audiences as he shows a different side of his acting skills. He commands attention with his realistic yet subtle reactions in heavy-loaded scenes alongside veteran actress Charo Santos-Concio. Meanwhile, Rans Rifol also shines with her self-centered character Andrea despite being a newbie in the acting industry. 

Lastly, the film’s visuals are worthy of praise. With detailed set designs and an excessive amount of extras filling the frame, every scene was picturesque. Along with the choice of music, the film triumphantly sets the overall look and mood of the story. 

While Whether the Weather is Fine centers around one of the most powerful typhoons ever existed, it is also a window through the country’s poor response against the pandemic. Another thing that unites the film and the country’s current reality is that rescue ship that is yet to arrive and board everyone out of misery. In the meantime, people wait with anticipation, sorrowfully dealing with the aftermath. F

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