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MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Isa Pa With Feelings’ (2019)

Damdamin ang damdamin. It’s a feels trip for Carlo Aquino and Maine Mendoza’s first team-up on the big screen. Here’s my review of Prime Cruz’ ‘Isa Pa With Feelings’

Isa Pa follows Mara (Maine Mendoza) who is Hearing, and Gali (Carlo Aquino) who is Deaf, as they navigate their way through the many differences and obstacles of the complicated set-up of their budding relationship.

Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed this film, but it isn’t a film without flaws. The film is at its best when it tackles the struggles of a Deaf-Hearing relationship. We’re shown how problems are dealt with in this kind of set-up, and to a certain extent, it is quite relatable for those who always feel left out. Mara and Gali, setting aside all their physical differences, are both struggling to fit in into each other’s worlds. It got quite interesting from there on, as the first act just felt a bit messy, frankly speaking.

It abandons quite a lot of plot points from the first few minutes of the film when it heads straight into romance territory, which isn’t really a bad thing. They could’ve left out all the unnecessary stuff at the beginning, and the film would still be good. What matters most here are the performances from the two leads, which is what I’ll be talking about next.

I’ve only ever seen Maine Mendoza act in tacky Vic Sotto comedy films, so it came to me as a surprise that she can really act. She can not only cry on cue, but she can actually express the right emotions every time. She lit up the room with her smiles, and she made us feel her sadness when Mara was at her lowest. She even made me a bit emotional at the climactic confrontation scene, which is part of the film’s trailer. She’s really promising as an actress, I’ll tell you that.

It’s a no-brainer that Carlo Aquino is a great actor, but in this film, he upped his game by portraying a Deaf role. He effectively communicates to the audience while only using sign language, which is definitely not an easy feat. All his emotions poured out without having to say a single word, which is a test of a true actor, and for this, he gets high marks from me. Together, they have palpable chemistry that translates well on screen.

Of course, no film is flawless. There were some things that bothered me throughout the film, which ranges from things like the out-of-place Siogo siomai stand (badly executed product placement, by the way) in the Deaf group’s house party, to the fact that there were some subplots that were never resolved at the end. The resolution at the end isn’t really that satisfying as well. As much as possible, I never let these things get in the way of my enjoyment, and I’ve successfully done the same for this film. I still had a really wonderful time despite these shortcomings.

The use of on-screen text to let us know what Gali is saying is quite clever. Although I have one qualm regarding the text in the film. All the on-screen text in the film, except for the subtitles (which are descriptive, by the way, great for the Deaf audience), are all literally rough in the edges. You could actually see the pixels on the edges of the text, from the title card, to the credits. It’s kind of a nitpick, but for someone like me, it just bothered me a bit.

The film also has great sound design, which elevates the whole experience. The times where we are shown Gali’s perspective of the world are some of my favorite scenes in the film. I also like how it doesn’t drown us with unnecessary background noise or music especially in the most important parts of the film. It just lets us sink into the world of silence when it needs to, which makes the film even more compelling.

There’s also some really clever stuff in here, particularly all the scenes involving Christmas lights and how they were utilized in the film. Even I’ve never thought that Christmas lights would be that useful. The film also pays some sort of homage to Maine’s Dubsmash days, through the wildly entertaining reenactment (and sign language interpretation) of that famous Amor Powers scene from Pangako Sa’yo. Overall, my main takeaway from the whole movie is that Mara shouldn’t be allowed to drive anymore, right? Just kidding.

Isa Pa With Feelings is a feel good film that oozes with feelings which translate well from the screen to the audience. It’s not a perfect film, but there’s nothing really wrong with that. Not all good films are perfect, and vice-versa. With that being said, I think I’ve just found my new favorite film from Black Sheep.

My Rating: 8/10

Here’s the full trailer for ‘Isa Pa With Feelings’:

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