(MOVIE): Isa Pa, With Feelings

I miss going to the cinemas. But I am so proud to say that the last movie that I remembered watching in cinemas was Maine Mendoza and Carlo Aquino’s “Isa Pa, With Feelings”.

“Isa Pa, With Feelings” directed by Direk Prime Cruz is the best movie of 2019 surpassing the promising entries on my honorable list: Star Cinema’s Hello, Love, Goodbye, Black Sheep’s Alone/Together, and Netflix’s Dead Kids. Though late, I’m still pumped up to share why I’m so obsessed with this movie (the feels still linger!) But hey, IPWF will be available on NETFLIX on CHRISTMAS DAY… so… why not? Let’s hype it up!

The film centers on the love story of Mara (Maine Mendoza), an aspiring, young architect who’s facing a career crisis, and Gali (Carlo Aquino), Mara’s deaf neighbor and a sign language teacher. I guess there’s no need to state the obvious conflict: ‘Isa Pa, With Feelings’ is a story of misfits.

IPWF is a purposive material echoing the sad realities of people with disabilities (or deformities). Its heartfelt narrative cuts deep and it hits close to home. If there’s one thing that I’d like to commend about this film, it is its preciseness. Allow me to tell you why and trust me when I say it’s accurate.

Though some PWDs rise above the situation, insecurities still hound us. Social anxiety tails behind our back. Having this as a lifetime badge, at some point, gets the best of us.

It’s true that PWDs often feel like an outcast. Like we have to be isolated in a corner where we deserve to be parked. Hidden like an alien. No one will choose us as their groupmate/s because of our limitations. It’s awkward to even sit with us or have us around.

We frame and presume what people think about us. And too often, it’s true. The initial reactions were totally understandable. We see questions in their eyes. All the whys and hows. But it’s always the discriminating treatment and look that makes us want to walk out. Just like Gali. If you watch the film, observe that bar scene when Mara’s friends felt awkward in front of Gali. It’s not that Gali is paranoid, we just know that we are the subject of those loud whispers.

The Lord will design someone to fill in the gaps. So here goes Mara. She’s positioned perfectly in this movie. It gives me chills to witness her efforts just to make Gali’s world tuneful only to be rejected by him. He’s holding back and there’s nothing to blame but his awful past. (The delivery scene was my favorite!).

Carlo delivered such emotional gymnastics without a single word. The emotional restraint, depending on the actor’s eyes and hands to portray a character, is impressive. Maine was the right actress to carry the material. I can vibe how her real personality embraces inclusivity so much so that it radiates in the film. Her spitballing her frustration in a confrontation scene with Carlo while doing sign language came out naturally. It’s hard to act out a script but it’s harder to act a script with your hands talking. The last scene was to die for. It converted me to a Maine stan right away.

Aside from being a new Maine stan, Direk Prime Cruz earns a good directorial nod. I love how he shifted our perspective from Gali to Mara, in a way that we get to understand where the characters stand. I also love how the writers depend on Mara and Gali alone. No pop culture references. No gimmicks. No extra characters or squad to spice the film up. No backup needed.

More than the awareness that the film gives about the deaf community, I hope this film will be able to help the viewers understand PWD’s situation better. This is how you position people with disabilities and deformities in a story. Creators of the Hollywood movie “The Witches” which starred Anne Hathaway must take note.

“Isa Pa, With Feelings” will air on NETFLIX on Dec 25. Please watch it and tell me your thoughts, especially on that Aquarium metaphor!

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66fBNmD0t00


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