Endo is a love story completely devoid of romance. It's the most honest love story you'll see. With respect to Jim Libiran and Tribu, this is the most realistic movie at Cinemalaya.
You can relate to Endo more than any other film from this year's batch, unless of course you've murdered a rival gangmember or lost a goat lately. You are, you've been or you will be either Sugar, Tanya or Leo at least once in your lifetime.
The ability to relate to these characters is in part the masterfully written script by Jade Castro and in part because of the actors who play Leo and Tanya. Jason Abalos and Ina Feleo continue a tradition of Cinemalaya bringing out the Above-A-Game of actors.
Unlike Still Life which had the best performance at Cinemalaya in Glaiza DeCastro paired with someone less interesting, both leads in Endo are equals onscreen. They're best actor and best actress material - which Ina Feleo won. Their equal brilliance gives them very good chemistry together.
When their characters aren't with each other onscreen, they give the impression that they're thinking of each other without saying it. Their visit to the luv motel is never mentioned as Tanya's first time, but the message is still relayed. Even Tanyas fears and doubts are apparent without saying a thing.
Body language, expression and the unspoken word comprise my favorite kind of performance. It's something we understand on a far more basic level but isn't a language many actors speak well. Both In Feleo and Jason Abalos speak this language fluently and in harmony with each other under the expert guidance of writer/director Jade Castro.
Like Still Life, Endo introduces a muse into the drudgery of it's main male character. Tanya in Endo isn't something nearly supernatural. She's a dreamer in what the world of Endo allows you to dream. Tanya isn't aspiring to be a ballerina or a veterinarian or a marine biologist. Her dream is job security. A life away from the endless stream of 6-month contracts that she refuses her life to be defined by.
Leo has long since turned into a robot. He doesn't live, he merely exists. He enters relationships more by routine than love. He fulfills his responsibilities to his family like a walking ATM, which his brother exploits. His father doesn't want that life for him - as played by Ricky Davao who seems to bless every Cinemalaya film he's in.
When Leo and Tanya meet, Leo doesn't realise she's what's been missing in his life. He mistreats her the same way he was. The efficient storytelling by Jade Castro shows you jsut how he was mistreated in a way that doesn't insult our intelligence. The story isn't set up at all. We walk into a life already in progress and understand what's going on. It's that approachable.
Jade Castro continues another tradition at Cinemalaya by putting a speech at or near the end of his film. Jason Abalos as Leo delivers a discourse about the misery he finally admits to in his life. If Endo were done by a big studio, the scene would be with the girl on a balcony looking down at Leo in the pouring rain, on his knees and screaming his lungs out.
Jason Abalos obliges the genuflection, but replaces the over-the-top with the painfully real. His honesty manages to reverberate louder than any belting would. The end of that open heart surgery is also something you'll never find at a big studio. After that, Endo finishes with nothing like a tragedy.
This film took me completely by surprise how good it was. The story's elegant simplicity and Jade Castro's unpretentious directing combine with the superb acting to provide one of the best films this year from anywhere. Napakasimpleng pelikula pero napakagaling ang pagkagawa.
After seeing Still Life and Tribu, I didn't think anything at Cinemalaya could touch those two films. Endo not only proved me wrong, it helps make this year's Cinemalaya the best batch ever.
btw - Jason Abaloses "ang pangit pangit ng buhay" rant along with Glaiza DeCastro's "'Ano ang ginagawa ko dito?' Ano ang ginagawa ko dito?" were the best lines at Cinemalaya.