tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Magbuwag Ta Kay’ Offers a New Perspective

While technically rough around the edges, this Cebuano film has considerable charm

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Magbuwag Ta Kay follows young couple Roy and Kay (Rowell Ucat and Akiko Solon). The story kicks off with Kay announces to her boyfriend that her family is moving her to Toronto in about month. And rather than face the prospect of struggling through a long-distance relationship, the two mutually resolve to break it off. Except they don’t do it right away. With one last month together, they take a stroll down memory lane, spend some time with friends, and run away together for a little while, looking for some way to deal with what’s become inevitable.

It should be mentioned that this film is Cebuano, and apart from some English dialogue, it is almost entirely in Bisaya. This is an interesting development in local cinema, as regional films to date have mostly been exhibited only within the confines of festivals. But it’s easy enough to see why Viva was willing to give this film a national platform. While it is a little rough around the edges, particularly when it comes to technique, it’s a perfectly sweet little film that deserves to earn a larger audience. It’s a youthful romantic movie that puts its heart in the right place.

The movie’s scope is pretty small. There are quirky little flashbacks to how the two met, but it isn’t at all about how they fell in love. The film instead details the comfort of a long-term relationship, Roy and Kay displaying a rapport that feels like it was built over a substantial amount stretch of their lives. It’s clear enough that the two actual have something to lose, despite being really young. They’re genuinely part of each other’s life, and even as they pretend that the breakup won’t hurt, the depth of their potential loss is pretty evident.

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And this becomes key as the movie tries to play around with more intriguing themes. The two are trying very hard to hold on to what little time they have, but there are also other people in their lives. The movie’s most interesting dimension lies in its depiction of how all-consuming this crisis is for these characters, and how it doesn’t just let them get away with it. It doesn’t let their impending breakup be an excuse for mistreating the other people in their lives, the hurt they cause their loved ones popping up in the fringes. It gives these characters a measure of surprising depth, balancing out the occasional bout of overt quirkiness.

The film’s biggest weak point is its technical package. Its attempts at being cinematic feel pretty facile, and they do little to contribute to the overall feeling of the film. The sound design could use some work as well. Rowell Ucat and Akiko Solon are pretty watchable together. Ucat doesn’t always look comfortable on screen, but there’s an earnestness to his performance that sells the appeal of his character. Solon is a pretty radiant presence on screen, and she is more than able to handle the film’s bigger dramatic turns.

Magbuwag Ta Kay is probably worth recommending just for the fact that it doesn’t come from Manila. Regional cinema is the most exciting aspect of our local film scene, and any effort to move it out of the fringes of the national conversations is welcome. But it’s also worth recommending just for how sweet it is, and how it delivers what feels like a new perspective on the romantic comedy. The production values could be better, but that will come with time, especially if the industry becomes willing to invest in these talents.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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