by PATRICK V. MIGUEL
SELF-WORTH is often associated with productivity at work. The narrative is that when one has no job or a day passes by without work done, the respect for the self is completely annihilated.
This is the epitome of hustle culture—a culture that propagates a “work, work, work” system with the idealized fantasy of financial success in the end. But what happens if someone is bound to be out of work? What happens when workers are at the age when they have to retire?
A possible scenario to that question is presented in the full-length film Retirada (2022), directed by Cynthia Cruz-Paz and Milo Alto Paz. It is among the pool of selected films presented in this year’s Cinemalaya, a Philippine independent film festival.
Retirada circles around the lives of married couple Azon (Peewee O’Hara) and Edong (Jerry O’Hara) as they dabble (or moreso dwindle) into the life of retirement.
The film begins with a beautiful yet melancholic score, which immediately sets the mood of the bittersweet moment of what Azon felt during her last day at work. It was evident from the actress’ facial expression that it is a moment she does not take happily, but rather a loathsome day as she eventually expresses that she no longer sees herself as valued.
In able to cope with retirement, Azon finds herself playing Bingo after being invited by her friend Chayong (Dexter Doria). Azon ultimately won P50, 000 on her first try, which Peewee could encapsulate with her momentous scream of joy, showing a profound juncture of victory that was latent in the form of luck.
That was only the beginning of Azon’s blight, as, throughout the film, her life quickly followed a downward trajectory as she fell deeper into the abyss of her gambling addiction. And in her vices, she took her family with her as they all suffered financial losses and health degradation caused by the relentless urge to scream “Bingo!” in a possible instance.
Much can be said about the film but what is unsettling in the story is how capitalism was able to encapsulate the senescent bodies not only of Azon and Edong, but also of the other elderly characters in Retirada. This shows how their agency could easily be taken away.
Take for example, the scenes where Azon is in the Bingo hall. She is surrounded by people of her age bracket, like her companion Chayong. It shows how older people are vulnerable to these forms of vices, and yet it is marketed to their demographic as Bingo seems like a “fun past-time” for retired people.
The discourses on retirement and the characters’ vulnerability to gambling addiction show that even if they are no longer working, they are still probable docile bodies bound by capitalism and money (or the lack thereof).
Throughout, Retirada’s storytelling technique subtly but successfully used foreshadowing. This was first presented in one short scene, where there are two individual photos of the couple, and in between them is a large green leaf, which signifies how the couple’s relationship will be tested by money. Another is when Azon recreated Chayong’s outfit in her first appearance—a pair of red pants and a black blouse. This shows how Azon has completely resonated Chayong’s addiction to Bingo.
Peewee and Jerry are not the only ones who delivered commendable performances in the film. Donna Cariaga, who was initially known for her comedic skits at It’s Showtime, proved that her roles are no longer limited to comedy when she played the couple’s daughter in the film. Somehow, Cariaga was able to surprise the audience when she comforted her unhinged mother regarding her gambling addiction in one scene. Although her acting is raw, she can still show her potential in drama.
Perhaps the only flaw in the film is not its story (as it is a meaningful one) but rather its lack of sublimity in its cinematics. Frame by frame, it presented simple and safe shots. But that is excusable as it is apparent that Retirada focuses on the story and not more on how the story can be shown.
Overall, Retirada is a film that explores the nuances of senescence, money, health, and what it means to live in retirement. It is a rather unexplored story that Cynthia and Milo are able to capture in filmmaking. But the final message makes Retirada palpable: gambling addiction is a mental illness that can be treated.
Retirada is among the films that could serve as a cautionary tale on how money has subjected people to docility—up to the point of falling into unhinged behaviors. But it also shows that vices are not perpetual ruinations that could lead to one’s demise. Vices are acquired and often perpetuated by the deceptive system of capitalism, and they could be defeated. F