Review by Mr. Will Wong
Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas) soon will turn 50-years-old and after losing his mother, he finds himself home taking caring of his ailing father (Esteban Comilang). He quits his job as a janitor and finds himself feeling imprisoned within his Scarborough home, living a comfortable life as a recluse, grieving. His cousin Marisol (Sheila Lotuaco) arrives from Kuwait, escaping some troubles there and begins to ignite something within him to break out of his comfort zone.
Writer/Director Martin Edralin paces this Feature debut in an unhurried manner, and what we get is an honest portrait of a man who begins to find himself after things are shaken-up in his stagnant life. There are no huge reveals or transformations, but we are left with a feeling of optimism as the wheels begin to turn for Joshua, who longs for love and begins to wonder about the world outside the prison of his home.
The Film just had is premiere at the 25th edition of the Reel Asian International Film Festival, with the distinction of being Opening Night Gala. It has won raves on the Festival circuit, including a win at SXSW, with Balagtas being award a Special Jury Recognition Award for Breakthrough Performance. Edralin purposely casts amateur Actors here to ensure we felt like flies on the walls in the home of every day people and succeeds. Edralin takes us right into the most intimate moments of Joshua‘s life, whether he is line dancing (a v. Filipino thing!) awkwardly or bathing his declining father. This shows incredible gumption in his filmmaking and in its own humble way is a triumph. Islands is never meant to be a comfortable watch and we’re okay with that.
The Reel Asian International Film Festival runs November 10-19, 2021 and you can see Islands now digitally till the end of the Festival. More here.