1-2-3 (Gasping for Air): Movie Review

"1-2-3" is a mellow film with a very shocking and very disturbing core. The film will impact audiences with its seemingly unabashed, unashamed and down-to-earth look into the world of local sex trafficking. It's a well-balanced film that doesn't force feed to prove its point and impact.

After joining a singing contest, Lulu (Barbara Miguel) is approached by a woman named Dita who introduces herself as a talent manager from Manila and promises Lulu instant fame. Desperate to change their lives and worried that her talent will go to waste, Lulu and her brother Luis (Carlos Dala) decide to trust Dita. From the get-go, Lulu has been surprisingly absent after leaving her home - only providing money from time to time. This worries Luis as he knows that this is unlike her sister. Out of worry, Luis goes to Manila on his own to track down Lulu. But when he discovers her, the grim reality of her whereabouts is fully revealed.
Films similar to "1-2-3" typically pushes the boundaries of its stark subject to its limits providing an experience that will be dark, sad, and even torturous just to make sure it impacts its audience. "1-2-3" finds the balance of mellow and disturbing and in the process makes it more natural, more life-life, and more impactful than any shock factor could bring in. Leading the way was its representation of prostitution (in this case, of very young children). Of course, this is disturbing in itself but we didn't expect it to flip the coin and show the actual conditioned mindsets of the abused and while misguided we could actually see happening in real-life. If there was an issue with the film, it would be its uneven pacing, acting, and soundtrack. For us, the film had a tendency to have massive time jumps or failed to take into account the passage of time. Acting-wise, while Barbara Miguel gave a powerful performance, Carlos Dala struggled to show emotions in particular climactic scenes. And the soundtrack just felt off at times feeling like the music used wasn't a good fit to what was happening on-screen. Overall though, the issues, while sounding major, are actually extremely minor compared to the actual meat and impact of the film.
Rating: 4 and a half reels

Why you should watch it:
- a very real and disturbing look into the world of sex trafficking

Why you shouldn't watch it:
- the acting from Carlos Dala in particular were lackluster at times
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