Cleaners

Cleaners ★★★★★

It's worth talking about the process: Glenn Barit and his team shot an entire movie. Then, they took eight frames out of every second and printed them out. Then they photocopied those printouts in black and white. And they took highlighters and physically colored in certain sections of every frame. And then they scanned those images and assembled them back into a movie.

What we get feels like a memory. It is easy enough to dismiss it in the abstract as a gimmick, but when you see it, the process feels vital to what the film is delivering. It is a hazy remembrance of the formative years of a group of young people, in the moments where their perception of the world is challenged. Because they're old enough now to believe certain things, and youthful enough to have the conviction that how they see things is the right way.

The stories are small by design, but the truths they speak are enormous. The film manages to make the small dramas of high school feel like epic tales of courage and self-actualization. A school dance number becomes an act of grand defiance. A teenage romance ends in a violent act of sacrifice that is as horrifying as it is strangely triumphant. And it does this without losing its sharp sense of humor, the film at all times evoking that feeling of hanging out with friends and laughing at all the crazy things they did as kids.

It all builds to catharsis, and this final burst of noise and color that speaks volumes of the fears and frustrations of every generation that is coming of age. It's beautiful and powerful. This is one of those miracles of Filipino cinema, one of those weird projects that defies all expectations, that transcends whatever limitations are given to the filmmakers. It's quickly become one of my favorite films, and I'm hoping that more people get to see it.

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