#MMFF2019 ‘Culion’ Review: A Heartbreaking and Awe-Inspiring Story of Hope

CULION (2019) Review
Directed by Alvin Yapan

It was hard to move on from that heartbreaking and awe-inspiring ending. I was trying not to cry for being overwhelmed at the messages the film wants to send. Culion isn’t kidding when it wants to showcase not only the rich history of the former leper colony but also its fine ensemble.

Its story is not the easiest to digest. Its treatment may not be for everyone especially for the Metro Manila Film Festival season audience. But those are just two things that made Culion admirable. It’s brave to tell a story or rather stories of people that are not usually told but there’s an urgency to. Because these stories are part of our history and these stories, while far different from what we are now, are still relatable and relevant to the society today.

The film starts slow, introducing the three main cast Ana (Iza Calzado), Ditas (Meryll Soriano) and Doris (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) and the rest of the people of Culion. The roles are perfect for Calzado, Soriano and Curtis-Smith. Iza has this leader-type aura that knows what to do in every situation and listens to everyone. Meryll is that most-trusted friend in the group. That even though she shows happiness on the outside, deep down, there’s loneliness and emptiness. And Jasmine, the innocence and the positivity that she possesses that once taken, it’ll be lethal.

Other actors also stood out. There’s Suzette Ranillo who has monologues in the film that’s heartbreaking and enlightening. Joem Bascon continues to soar as an actor, you might see him in lots of films already but there’s no repetition, you can see him as different persons, different characters in all of his works. Then there’s Mike Liwag, getting the biggest role of his career, proves he learned his character well and it shows, Mike Liwag is Jaime.

The ensemble, its characters are what made Culion. It’s the stories of these characters that make Culion an experience. But as these characters are plenty, it is not that easy to process. You get to follow more than one character in the whole movie but it’s all worth it as it builds the third act of the film.

What I kept thinking while watching the film is that how brave they are because the treatment is not for the MMFF audience. I mean, from the start it was intended to be submitted to the MMFF, and here I am, watching a film that is not afraid to be slow, to have controversial themes and to be depressing at times.

I wanna see Culion again. Because of its cast, because of that John Lloyd Cruz scene, because of the stories and messages it wants to tell, because of its ending that left me speechless and trying not to cry because of how heavy it all was. I wanna watch Culion again because it shows camaraderie in times of hopelessness, because it gives us perspective of what it’s like for a person living with Hansen’s disease in a time when there is still no cure as it promotes to break the stigma. There’s a lot to see in Culion, best be ready with your tissues because it’s going to be a tearjerker.

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‘Culion’ opens in cinemas December 25, 2019 from iOptions Ventures and Team MSB. An official entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival 2019. Rated PG by the MTRCB.

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