“Shaleha Sarail hails from a water-village in Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi. A woman of mature years, experiencing a 3rd miscarriage, Shaleha agonizes that she can’t bear a child. Though an adoptive parent to her nephew, she still feels that her husband Bangas-An desires to be a father. To fulfill her husband’s only wish and to be blessed by Allah as having a child is a tangible proof of divine grace, Shaleha decides to march to a different drummer. Her resolve is to find a new partner for her husband. Night and day, she and her husband sail island, floating-village, and nearby communities in search of a fertile woman.”
This was an absolutely beautiful film; and I think it would’ve been more beautiful had it been shorter.
Out of the four entries I’ve already seen, this one has the most cohesive story, and has actors actually acting. Unfortunately, it’s also the most boring. Not because of the story nor the acting–it’s because with an hour and a half of running time, it still runs too long.
The main premise of the story has to do with Shaleha, a midwife who cannot bear a child, and her quest to find a new wife for her husband who can give what she cannot: a child. The entirety of the film revolves around this journey, of Shaleha looking for that woman–and then the negotiations that goes along with it. It’s all very fascinating. And if the film had just focused on that, on the culture and the events that had pushed Shaleha into realizing what she must do, I think I would have been able to say that this film is the best one I’ve seen of the festival.
Unfortunately, the film dragged. Everything felt longer than what was necessary. Thy Womb saps the energy of viewers much as a fetus saps the energy from a mother-to-be.
I am not proud to admit that I fell asleep sometime between Shaleha deciding to find a wife for her husband, and the wedding of Ayesha, who I initially thought was marrying Bangas-An.
Also, I do have a bone to pick with stunt casting. Lovi Poe, who is billed higher than principal actor Bembol Roco, appears in two scenes. Three if you want to argue that the introduction and her first conversation with Bangas-An are two separate scenes. And yet she’s on the poster, back to back with Nora Aunor–who carries the whole movie. I understand that the film title refers to Lovi’s character, it is her womb that couple Shaleha and Bangas-An desire–but if that’s the argument, then might as well have her womb be part of the poster–and not Lovi Poe herself!
I know stunt casting isn’t new in the entertainment industry of the Philippines–but this is supposedly an art film. I was mistaken in thinking Thy Womb was above doing such gimmicks.