“Mapagod kang umasa, sige. Pero wag kang mapagod mangarap.”
This year’s Pista Ng Pelikulang Pilipino boasts a great line-up of films, and this romantic musical from the director of last’ year’s PPP box-office hit “100 Tula Para Kay Stella” is one you definitely shouldn’t miss.
A super typhoon ravages the hometown of a family band composed of four brothers, putting halt to their musical pursuits. They are forced to move from Isabela all the way to Pampanga to stay with their grandfather. While taking refuge in this distant farmland, the Datul brothers, who make songs together as the “Bakwit Boys”, put their musical talents to good use.
The eldest brother Elias (Vance Larena), is the band vocalist together with the youngest, Sonny (Mackie Empuerto), while Joey (Ryle Santiago) plays the guitar and Philip (Nikko Natividad) composes their songs. Not wanting to burden their grandfather, they agree to perform their original song in a town fiesta to earn some cash. Their performance impresses Rose (Devon Seron), a rich city girl who is passionate for music.
She offers to help the boys record their songs and have them played on the radio. Individual interests and personal conflicts test the unity of the band, as they struggle to make a sense of life’s ironies and tragedies.
Director and writer Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Bakwit Boys” stars Vance Larena, Devon Seron, Nikko Natividad, Ryle Santiago, and Mackie Empuerto, together with Nanding Josef, Frank Guinto, Sebastian Castro, Cai Cortez, Alma Concepcion, Jeric Raval, Eagle Riggs, Kiray Celis and Albie Casino. The film features all original songs composed by Jhaye Cura.
It is produced by T-Rex Entertainment and is an official entry to the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2018 that will run in cinemas nationwide from August 15-21.
I have to be honest: I’m a big sucker for musicals. I’m one of those millennials who spent his high school days listening to High School Musical’s “Breaking Free” and Camp Rock’s “This Is Me”. I’m also that kind of guy who shed a tear or two while watching 2016’s “La La Land” and kept on playing “Moulin Rouge!” and “Pitch Perfect” on DVD.
So yeah, musicals are a big thing to me. And I am very particular in this genre because if you don’t do it right, you end up having a film that looks like just a stitched up series of music videos. But do it the right way and get that perfect balance of music and story and you get to make an experience that audiences will rave about.
With that being said, director Jason Paul Laxamana succeeded in creating that experience for audiences of this year’s Pista.
Imagine Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” with a touch of Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ “The Kings Of Summer”. “Bakwit Boys” is both a fantasy and a fable. It’s a film about dreamers who just wanted to achieve their hopes and dreams. But it also depicts the harsh realities of the music industry. It is true that talent is not good enough in this industry.
Sometimes, they don’t really care if you are so goddamn good in acting or singing. All they care about is whether you are popular or relevant. It’s a business after all. Jason Paul Laxamana carefully mixes hard-headed reality with a dreamer’s story, enough for it to be honest and realistic.
Mai Calapardo’s cinematography evokes that rustic summer atmosphere all throughout the film. It added to the overall experience of watching these boys spend their summer days singing in the fields and just trying to make sense of life.
There’s one particular scene that I really loved featuring Devon Seron’s character Rose singing “Fiona” in the fields. The way that scene switched from reality to Philip’s fantasy as he hears his song sung by someone else for the first time was truly magical.
I also have to rave about Jhaye Cura’s original compositions which were featured in the movie. All her songs are so beautiful and catchy that after watching the film, I still can’t get them out of my head. Though these songs have pop versions from the likes of Ice Seguerra, Mark Oblea and Jay-R, but the cast’s version of these songs that they perform in the film are all amazing as well.
The band’s signature song and the film’s official soundtrack “Ligtas Ka Na” is particularly my favorite with its uplifting message of hope. “Huwag bibitaw, huwag susuko. Gamitin ang tapang sa iyong puso. At sa oras na malagpasan mo ito, sasaluduhan kita… Ligtas ka na.” It perfectly fits the story of these four brothers who continue to keep fighting the odds against them together as a family.
Most of us probably know most of the cast, except Vance Larena. He’s a theater actor who was even nominated as Best Actor for Aliw Awards 2017. You probably haven’t noticed him but he has been in movies like Kip Oebanda’s “Bar Boys” from last year’s Pista, the Regal Films romcom “So Connected” and the Cinemalaya 2018 Audience Choice winner “Liway”.
But in “Bakwit Boys”, he definitely won’t get unnoticed with his outstanding portrayal of the stern eldest Datul brother, Elias. Tough and strict on the outside, yet soft and caring inside, Vance Larena manages to balance these traits enough for viewers to root for him. After his performance here in “Bakwit Boys”, I’m already looking forward to his next works.
Devon Seron effortlessly shines as Rose, the girl who devoted her time to help the Datul brothers. Her character may seem simple at first, like a fairy godmother who just showed up out of nowhere to help the boys achieve their dreams. But the truth is her character hides the most complex story in the film as she realizes her connection with the boys. Devon was able to showcase her acting chops as she manages to carry such complex character with flying colors.
Nikko Natividad is a big surprise here in “Bakwit Boys”. His character, Philip is the most quiet among the Datul brothers. With his character, Nikko swept everyone off their feet with his sensitive portrayal of Philip. Even though he doesn’t have a lot of acting roles to his credit, he wowed me with his great dramatic chops. He’s like this shy fish out of water in the film and he will surely melt your heart with his adorable performance.
Ryle Santiago plays Joey, the carefree Datul who hopes to be a star. He has great comic timing and provides most of the laughs in the film. His witty banters perfectly fitted him thanks to Laxamana’s script.
Mackie Empuerto of the popular TNT Boys plays the youngest kid Sonny. Aside from stunning fans not only here in the country but even abroad with his great vocal talent, Mackie was able to display some great acting skills, especially in one scene where his character suffers a bit of trauma from the typhoon.
Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Bakwit Boys” is another proof of the director’s great talent for storytelling. Admittedly, it’s a simple story about people trying to reach their dreams. But the way that director Laxamana weaves this tale and brings his script to life is what makes him one of the best local directors out there. The film is like a rollercoaster ride, it starts from the very bottom, then slowly lifts you up until you reach that euphoric high.
It’s a film for everyone of us who dreamed, believed and survived just like Elias, Rose, Philip, Joey and Sonny. It’s a feel-good Pinoy movie that will lift up your hearts with its inspiring message and story. It’s a film to inspire everyone to keep on dreaming. Because just like what Jim Carrey said, “If you give up on your dreams, what’s left?”