The Woman Who Left ★★★★★

on the way back in the subway i overheard two students talking about the movie and praising how well they were able to recreate the 90s by not making it look too modern. how they were able to show well what a "shitty" place it was to live in. my heart sank because that's just how the country looks today.

there's too much in this movie to really unpack in a review like this but i think that the most important thing to remember while watching it is its context. and this movie is filled to the brim with it with its references to the chiong sisters and the curious tick in filipino-chinese kidnappings in the mid 1990s, specifically around 1997. geography is very important too—knowing where characters are from (balanga, la union, matnog), where they are now (calapan, benguet, quiapo) and where they want to go. and of course we need to remember the intimate nature of the relationships among religion, class and race within the philippine context.

i'll have more words for this eventually, but i can't believe that it took me over three hours of runtime—up to his second to the last scene— to realize that the bruised up transvestite prostitute in the movie was


he's probably the most popular filipino actor of his generation and he usually plays the unassuming leading man in those corny romantic comedies that the country churns out every year—his casting here is quite insane, in a good way