“Rene is a gay man who came out of the closet at age 60. Ailing in his twilight years, he thinks it is now too late for love, even companionship, and that all there is to look forward to is death. Nowadays the only companion Rene has is Bwakaw, a stray dog that hangs around his house and follows him wherever he goes. As Rene waits for the day of his death, he gets the surprise of his life when it is Bwakaw who suddenly falls ill and is diagnosed with cancer. In his struggle to get Bwakaw cured, Rene finds comfort in the most unlikely person: Sol, a tricycle driver who helps him bring Bwakaw to the vet and befriends him. Buoyed by Sol’s friendship, Rene starts living. Little by little he discovers simple joys.”
I took the liberty of cropping Cinemalaya’s official synopsis for Bwakaw. Why? One, because it’s too long. Two, because it reveals the entire story. Whoever is in charge of the Cinemalaya website needs a talking to. But that’s not what this post is about, so let’s move on.
If there was a coming of age movie for the elderly, that would be Bwakaw.
Seeing as the dog has the title role, people might think that the film is about Bwakaw. And it sort of is. But it is, first and foremost, the story of how a grinch-like Rene found new appreciation for life–even at the cost of his own happiness.
Story-wise, it boldly goes where few films have gone before–exploring the life unlived by a gay man who came out too late. The story is rich with characters who seem to have been plucked out from our everyday lives–but they’re given such colorful characterization that they might seem larger than life at first. And it works perfectly for the film, because these loud characters emphasizes just how quiet Rene’s life is without them.
Rene, as a character, is wonderfully layered. He’s prickly, at time’s nasty, but you can see the care he has for the people (and the dog) he surrounds himself with. He’s a very lonely man who hides his loneliness by lashing out at everyone with his acerbic tongue. And it takes one who is just as acerbic as he is to find the self that Rene wants to hide and protect. And what follows is a quiet journey for Rene towards the road of acceptance–and pushes him to start living again, not waiting for his death to come knocking.
With such heavy material, you’d think the film would feel heavy too. But it doesn’t. In fact, during the screening I went to, everyone was laughing 70% of the time!
The humor is a little dark at times, but I’ll take that any day over slapstick comedy. In fact, I would take dark humor any day over any kinds of humor, because this means Filipino writers are now willing to explore the storytelling mold further–and it also gives me hope for the future of moviegoers, with all the people laughing at the right parts.
For the technicalities, I have nothing to say except this: the film has a vibrant feel that transports you to the world of Rene and Bwakaw. I applaud the people behind the camera for their wonderful work on Bwakaw.
Catch the film at the following dates, time and venue. And I suggest you grab your tickets quick as they’re selling out fast!
July 24: 6:15PM – Tanghalang Huseng Batute (CCP)
July 25: 6:30PM – Greenbelt 3
July 26: 3:30PM – Main Theater (CCP) / 6:15PM – MKP Hall (CCP)
July 28: 1:30PM – Greenbelt 5 / 6:15PM – Little Theater (CCP)
July 29: 6:30PM – Greenbelt 5
Edited to add: Bwakaw will have a mainstream run in theaters beginning September 5.