Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Alvin Anson, Albert Martinez (II), Caridad Sanchez, Lorna Tolentino
Director: Joel Lamangan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Special Interests
An exquisitely sharp screwball comedy about the meaning of family. Marriage minded, working class girl, Annie is determined to snag Ron, a fellow employee as her husband. One night after a wild party Annie gets her chanc... more »
Don't Throw Things at Your Video Screen Until the End
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 10/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I like to collect gay foreign films, especially from countries whose culture I am unfamiliar with. When I saw that this film was from the Philippines, I thought, "Well, that's a new one for me", so I bought it. When I finally got around to watching it, there were a few surprises. The first three-quarters of the film utterly infuriated me, as it seemed that the screenwriter and director's sole purpose was to destroy gay self-esteem and validate old-fashioned homophobia. It just goes to show that you can't totally judge a film until the final credits are rolling.
Annie is a desperate man-hungry wallflower who has a severe crush on her fellow office worker, Ron. One night after an office party, she manages to seduce him in his car. How he completed the sex act was beyond me, since he is 100% gay, she is not very pretty, and in that particular scene, he is supposed to be too drunk to stand up. Nevertheless, we get an overhead shot of the car bouncing up and down, and Annie is delighted one month later to find herself pregnant. When she breaks the news and automatically assumes that Ron will marry her, he announces that he's got a partner, and takes her home to meet his male lover, Nick. Annie promptly faints. Ha-ha - isn't that a scream? This is where the film started to go off in directions that made my blood boil. Annie is convinced that Ron must be a "real man", and threatens to have her father arrange a shotgun wedding. Then, she arrives at the gay couple's home with her luggage, escorted by her "macho" brother ("You'd better not make my sister cry" he tells Ron) and she moves in. Just like that. Everybody in the film, including the two lovers, more or less act like it's quite within Annie's right to come between them and take over their home, since she is expecting Ron's child.
To add incest to injury, the gay couple is relieved when Ron's father, a military career man, shows up on a surprise visit and is delighted with his new "daughter". Now Ron can stop worrying that his father will find out his dreadful secret. You see, absolutely everybody in this story takes for granted that the gay lovers are completely closeted, and there doesn't seem to be a hint that it should be otherwise. Nick, Ron's lover, is about as stereotypical a gay man as you will ever see in a movie. When Annie asks him if he wears women's panties, he screams like a woman and shrieks, "I'm not like the others!" There are lots of bedroom doors slamming, like a French farce (including a "secret passageway") while Ron struggles to please both his lover and the future mother of his child. Annie sniffles and looks ill every time she walks in on Ron and Nick in bed, which happens too many times to be believable, and it wasn't funny the first time, let alone the third. Meanwhile, Nick starts to warm to Annie, and one of the comedic highlights of the film is when he takes her to the maternity clinic for a checkup and she shouts, "How long have you known you were gay?" within earshot of the whole clinic. Everyone in the clinic looks uncomfortable, especially Nick, as they stare at him in disbelief. Ha-ha - isn't that hilarious? Ron and Nick are hoping to adopt the child, but they don't want to break the news to Annie, lest she refuse. So they just keep hoping she'll suggest it herself, and they never really get around to asking her. She winds up remaining with them, so all three can raise the child together. There doesn't seem to be any other way out, since they are all afraid to reveal the truth to their friends, family and co-workers.
I kept thinking that these characters all resembled teenagers, and immature teenagers at that. I realize that gay pride and coming out are processes that are somewhat behind in much of the world, but it's still hard to understand why a film that purports to be "gay positive" would reinforce so many homophobic, antiquated ideas. Then came the final half-hour, in which the entire film turned around. Suddenly, the message became much more gay positive, and I was beginning to think it was not a total loss. The last two scenes were a total reversal in theme and attitude, and the film suddenly came alive. The last 10 minutes was far more gay-friendly than the first 80 minutes led me to ever hope for, and at the end, I was left feeling much more satisfied then I ever expected to be after the first hour or so. Although quite flawed (the drama was overacted, the romance was too schmaltzy and the comedy was forced) the picture turned out to have a positive message after all, and I found I enjoyed it when it was over, despite my initial misgivings.
If there's hope for these people to find their self-respect and come barreling out of the closet, then there's hope for us all.
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 04/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
Annie has set herself to catch her co-worker Ron as her "man". She manages to get him a little tipsy at an office party and then seduces him. She soon learns that she is pregnant and decides that the wedding should soon follow. There is a bit of a problem however--Ron lives with his boyfriend who does not like the idea that his mate is about to become a "straight" father.
The movie takes a hard look at gay life in the Philippines and shows how gay men there converse and live. Playful in structure this is one of those overlooked films that has not been given its due. Possessing beautiful cinematography and a delightful performance by the female lead, Lorna Tolentino, there is a wonderful gay sensibility here. Tolentino is funny and down to earth and she plays perfectly against the two male leads.
"Soft Hearts" is one of those small films that warms the heart and manages to present an honest picture of our lifestyle without sentimentality and in a quick paced quite comic way. If one can get past the clichés, this is a fun way to spend a little time.