Mayohan - A Subtle Review
In an ideal world, a summer fling is with a sweet and innocent girl and a tall dashing boy. Add some Disney ears to it and call the girl Hanna Montana as she rediscovers her country roots and sheds her city folk ways. The boy in Mayohan is hardly dashing nor tall and while he is easily liked, the locals describe him as "di pa tuli". The girl is sweet but she's no innocent. Disney ears are absent here but the uncle does happen to be Goofy. A coming of age is afoot, and it's one that has a charm to it dashed with reality as we discover that in this town, the only virgins are the statues.
Set in Infanta, a town in Quezon province, Mayohan plucks a cityboy named Nino from his Cubao home and throws him into rural Philippines. No setup is provided as we first meet him on a bus headed for the province already. We don't see his city life that he would miss nor the death of his parents whose grave he is visiting. All we get for setup is when he utters the word 'Cubao' and we assume that's where he's from. Tidy. Nothing is spelled out for the audience here and it's all very subtle.
The province is gorgeous as provinces are but as gorgeous as the country scenery is, it's visuals are never fully exploited. The town is unfamiliar as are it's ways and the filmmakers considerately provide us with a tour guide in the form of the Goofy Uncle named Ruben who has magically drying jeans. It seems that in the provinces, after stepping indoors from a torrent, all clothes instantly dry up and your hair repels all rainwater without any dripping. That's just about the only glaring continuity error and while it jumps off the screen to snap at your nose, it ruins very little.
Much can be said of the actors of Mayohan but there is one actor who puts them all to shame and she isn't even on for very long, the lola. Every actor showing up onscreen is just that, an actor. When the lola shows up, she isn't an actor. She IS the lola and simply so. Unfortunately, I recognise her face but not not enough to remember her name. There are exemplary performances here, but it is that Lola and her simple truthfulness that I recall the most and the best. The other great performance comes from Mayohan's soundtrack. The music is relevant to each scene it found itself in and was always a welcome presence. Uncoincidentally, the music is an area uninhibited by the disciplined filmmaking. All the good scenes are the ones with music and it might've been the music that made them good in the first place.
Mayohan is a film student's wet dream as it is chock full of metaphors such as the crushed virgin mary and the dying chickens and several others in between. It would be a fun exercise to watch it like a cinematic "where's waldo" to find them all. That unfortunately is where most of Mayohan's fun is and it's not really what we watch movies for - most of us, anyway. The filmmakers make the attempt at making a feelgood film without going over the top. In avoiding doing too much, too much restraint was exercised and they wound up doing too little. While it does make it to that feelgood destination successfully, the journey was largely uneventful. It's still a feelgood coming of age film but it could've done with just a bit more of that feeling.