Always waiting for the other shoe to fall…

When I was asked to review a Filipino film, I was a tiny bit hesitant.  This is because I’ve seen a bunch of films from the Philippines before and they ranged from awful women in prison and monster films from the 1960s and 70s or were much more recent films that were sickly sweet romances.  I knew there had to be other sorts of films—I just never had seen any.  Fortunately, this British-Filipino production was terrific and oh so much better than the other movies.  Because of this, I really am looking forward to seeing more films from this country.

Metro Manila is not a film for everyone.  It’s an incredibly tough movie to watch at times and your heart really goes out to the leading characters in the movie.  However, if you can make it through all the misery, you’ll find that the script is amazingly well written and intelligent.

Metro Manila
Directed by
Sean Ellis
Jake Macapagal, Althea Vega, John Arcilla
Release Date
Martin’s Grade: A-

The film begins with Oscar Ramirez receiving only a pittance for their hard work as rice farmers.  It’s so little that they see they have only one choice—to travel to the big city to look for work.  However, this nice family is constantly screwed during the course of the film—to the point where you wonder if it can get any worse.  Their rent money is stolen—and they have no food for themselves or their two small children.  Out of desperation, the wife gets a degrading job working in a sleazy bar as a ‘hostess’—though she’s not much better than a prostitute.  Then the husband works all day only to be given a couple sandwiches in payment!

Now they have no place to live, practically no food and they are desperate.  Only when the man gets a job working as an armored car worker do things start to look up for them.  Now, they can live in a nicer and safer home and they finally feel happy.  But, based on how things have gone so far, I kept expecting the other shoe to fall.  And, fall it did—but in such a creative way that it made the film worthwhile.  What exactly happens to these poor people?  Well I certainly won’t spoil it by telling!  However, the ending really took me by surprise—and I love to be surprised.

This movie has a lot going for it.  A great reason to watch it is to see just how much of the world lives.  This film doesn’t give a beautiful look at Manila but shows a desperate town where it’s more dog eat dog than anything else.  How the family tries to hold on is what makes the film truly exciting to watch.  But, as I already said, the film is tough viewing at times.  It certainly is NOT a feel-good film and it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to see it through to the end.  But it IS worth it.  It also features some excellent natural acting and it is a well made production and makes me want to see more from these folks.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer