Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Metro Manila




Released: 2013

Directed By: Sean Ellis

Starring: Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla

Certificate: 15

Reviewed By: Daryn Castle

Brighton born Writer/Director Sean Ellis made his mark in the industry directing the 2006 Oscar nominated short Cashback that he would later turn in to a feature. Like fellow Brit Gareth Evans (The Raid), Ellis has opted to depart his homeland to shoot a feature overseas, resulting in one of the most beautifully constructed dramas to hit the screens in some time.

Metro Manila is set in the Philippines and focuses on a poor family who toil in the rice fields, barely scraping together enough money to feed themselves.  With no hope but to flee their underpaid jobs in the fields, the family, led by husband Oscar, take to the roads that lead to the city of Manila in the hope of finding work and shelter.

The first act of the movie draws heavily on Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath with the poor family pinning all of their hopes on the big city being the answer to their prayers. The wordless scenes showing the family overwhelmed by the bright lights of the city are beautifully done conveying both the wonder and the fear they experience from such a drastic change of environment.

The promise land quickly becomes a crushing disappointment as the family are exploited both by employers and landlords on their painful journey to living a normal life.  Hope comes in the shape of a job opportunity at a city security firm where Oscar’s military background pays off and is recruited as a driver/courier, delivering and collecting secure boxes containing money for companies and individuals. Oscar is quickly despatched in to the field with his charismatic partner who shows him the ropes out on  the road and is given a baptism of fire as he learns very quickly about the threats from criminals who seek to rob the company trucks.

What follows is a plot that quickly turns from gritty social drama to crime thriller as Oscar is drawn in to a web of corruption and murder. Sean Ellis has crafted a wonderful film with depth, beauty and naturalistic performances.

The first act clearly has echoes of Terence Malick with sumptuous shots of the landscape and intelligently cut together silent shots that reveal so much about the characters and their situation. Ellis maintains control of the film throughout, never allowing the final act to spiral into the absurd and culminating in what has to be one of the most elegant and moving endings this reviewer has seen in some time.

Just For You