Ang Larawan (The Portrait): MMFF Movie Review

Don't let the simple premise of "Ang Larawan" fool you. It's one film that is chock full of deep meanings and metaphors that not only allude to the rapidly changing times the film is set in but more so in how we view the value of the arts today. This is a film that will not only entertain you with its garish yet top-notch production value but it will also make you think how we consider what is important in our own personal lives.

It is 1941 and sisters Paula (Rachel Alejandro) and Candida (Joanna Ampil) are struggling to make ends meet. Their father, Don Lorenzo el Magnifico, a famous painter only rivaled by Juan Luna, used to be the sisters' guiding light but ever since his fall from their balcony, which rendered him a cripple, has been unable to help. As the two sisters face the reality of poverty, they are pressured by people around them to sell their father's final masterpiece, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, and their ancestral home in Intramuros.
The first thing that really stood out for "Ang Larawan" in our opinion was its production value. We totally didn't expect to see grandiose and vibrant visuals but everything within the film feels like much thought and much budget was put into it. The costumes, in particular, looked authentic and really helped transport us into the early 1940s. While the film heavily revolves around a single area on a single house, it never limited the film. Great camera work with its subtle movements meant that this particular limitation never gets old. The soundtrack composed by Ryan Cayabyab was good as a whole. Honestly, the lyrics are what really stood out for us more than the musical composition but the harmony was at least easy to catch on. The only downside for the film was its simplistic story and its silliness at times. Those crazy portions did bring some relief to the serious tone of the film but it also got us out of the moment. It doesn't help that some characters show up out of nowhere and not all of them feel crucial to the narrative's development. On the acting department, the film is a definite heavy-weight. As expected, Joanna Ampil and Rachel Alejandro deliver awesome performances. Paulo Avelino, Nonie Buencamino, and Sandino Martin are close seconds. But we have to say, we were left disappointed and jarred with the singing capacity of Avelino. Overall, "Ang Larawan" was a period film that feels authentic and yet also feels important to the present day. Its story may be simplistic but the allusions are not. It is a film that has deeper context than its exterior may show and in that regard it has been at least a worthwhile experience.
Rating: 4 and a half reels

Why you should watch it:
- superb acting and singing performances from the leads
- this is one deep film with a lot of allusions to past and present Philippine culture

Why you shouldn't watch it:
- the story was simplistic at times and has its silly elements that take the moment off

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