If you have the time, do go and watch Kasal, a Cinemalaya 2014 film that started its commercial screening last Wednesday, February 18. I was able to watch it during its Cinemalaya run last August thanks to a friend's post on Facebook, and I was not disappointed. I didn't watch any of the other Cinemalaya films back then so I can't say if Kasal deserved its Best Film Award under the Director's Showcase category, but it's pretty good.
The film was co-written and directed by Joselito Altarejos, the filmmaker whose gay-themed films are among the best I've seen from the local fare. Of his previous films, I really liked Ang Laro sa Buhay ni Juan (see my review) and Ang Lihim ni Antonio, though I was quite disappointed with Little Boy, Big Boy. Good thing Kasal was as good as the former.
Kasal tells the story of Paolo and Sherwin, a gay couple played by Oliver Aquino and Arnold Reyes respectively. As stated in the film's synopsis, the couple contemplate the future of their relationship even as they attend the wedding of Sherwin's younger sister in the province. Paolo, a director, wants to take their relationship to the next step while Sherwin, a closeted lawyer, is not quite open to the idea. He even introduces Paolo to his family as just a good friend in-charge of the wedding videography.
What I liked about the film is its slightly subtle political message. Kasal juxtaposes the struggle for legal recognition of gay marriage with the notions of “traditional” marriage. As you might have guessed, Sherwin’s younger sister is getting married because she got pregnant with her boyfriend even though both are not yet prepared to raise a family. Later on, we see a commitment ceremony between two men who are both clearly love each other but whose union is not accorded legal benefits. Even more interesting is the fact that Arnold specializes as an annulment lawyer. He gets first-hand look at how the lack of divorce in the Philippines leads to a lot of unhappiness (and that may have colored his noncommittal behavior).
Political message aside, I also liked how the film depicts Sherwin and Paolo’s relationship as realistic and relatable as possible. Much praise should be given to the two lead actors, especially perennial indie actor Reyes, though relative newcomer Aquino did a superb job as well.
If there is only one thing that I have to nitpick, then it would be the long sex scene near the beginning. While it was done quite realistically and tastefully at the same time (and my eyes definitely appreciated it), I didn't quite see the point. It was done in one long take of about 10 minutes when it could have been shortened without detracting from the story.
Overall, the film does justice to gay relationships and I would consider it a must-see. The acting is great, the story is moving, and it takes a nice jab at the state of the institution of marriage in our country.