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Loneliness is usually a gloomy subject — on screen or off. But writer-director Jun Robles Lana managed to make this oh-so-forlorn topic funny, even endearing, in his award-winning dramedy, "Bwakaw."
He gave Rene (Eddie Garcia), a 75-year-old man living on his own in a shanty, such depth, such character, one doesn't pity him for having only Bwakaw, his faithful dog, for company.
But this feel-good vibes doesn't happen overnight. Like all good things, it comes with a cost — not just to the person concerned, but to his friends and loved ones.
This is where the heart and soul of the Cinemalaya 2012 hit lies. Each scene takes you on a roller coaster of emotions, thanks to Rene and Bwakaw. And you can't help but go where every jolt, every bump on the road takes you.
You weep inside as Rene visits Alicia (Armida Siguion-Reyna) in the home for the aged and makes him promise never to return, ever.
"Ang mga tao dito, inaalagaan, hindi minamahal," she explained.
Your heart skips a beat when you see Rene's eyes twinkle because he's falling for tricycle driver Sol (Rez Cortez).
Yes, Rene is gay, but not the flamboyant, screaming faggot type. Because he's the silent -- even dignified -- kind of gay, the film doesn't deteriorate into a demeaning gay flick. The gay factor is woven in so naturally (when Rene and Sol get drunk one night), you know it's there, not to sell the film, but to make it move forward.
The "gayness" fades, and that lonely feeling stays — oh so painfully.
But what takes the cake is not a human being but the colorful Bwakaw. Hers is one of the saddest pairs of canine eyes I've seen, on screen and off.
Pain and longing
They ooze with pain and longing when they stare into Rene's eyes. If only Bwakaw (a Golden Retriever named Princess in real life) is human, she can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Eddie Garcia in scene after touching scene. But since she's not, Bwakaw can only react to her on screen master's commands and soothing words.
Eddie still rules the roost — grumbling, fighting, scaring, laughing — and everything in-between. He shows Rene what he is — warts and all. And you end up loving him, despite — and in spite of it all.
The guy couldn't have done it all by his lonesome. Soxie Topacio makes Rene even more endearing by figuring in funny scenes that lift the serious veil surrounding parts of the film.
Armida's lost look — in contrast to Rene's warm gaze — stresses the latter's humanness, and the former's emptiness.
A tricycle zooming away from Rene as fast as it could makes you feel for the solitary figure trying to fend off the dust the vehicle leaves behind.
If "Bwakaw" were a journey, it would be filled with bumps and lots of twists and turns. No one said these twists and turns would be easy. But they're always interesting.
In "Bwakaw's" case, the twists and turns take you on a journey of hope that make you believe second chances are just within your reach.