With the image I had of the Philippines being largely formed by the ragtag surroundings of poorness and drama, Brillante Mendoza paints on his films, “Apocalypse Child” was a surprise for me, as the scenery of the beach in Baler provides a radically different perspective on the country.
The script is inspired by the shooting of “Apocalypse Now” in the area, as the crew of the film had quite a lot of “contact” with local girls, with many of those affairs resulting in illegitimate children. One of those children is Ford, a champion surfer, whose mother, Chona supposedly had him with Francis Ford Coppola himself (thus the name), when she was just 14 years old. At the time the story begins, Ford has a new girlfriend, Fiona, who seems to have touched something very deep inside him. However, when his childhood friend Rich, currently a senator, returns in the area with Serena, his fiancee, a lot of secrets from the past resurface, that seems to be connected with Rich’s father and Ford’s mother. Furthermore, Rich seems to be testing his fiancee by making her take surfing lessons from Ford.
Mario Carnejo directs a very entertaining film, that is based much on his and Monster Jimenez’s (who co-wrote the script) sense of humor (the scene where Chona, makes her first appearance is a distinct sample), the dark secrets that shape the relationships of the characters, and the beauty of both the scenery and the actors. The concept of the children born by the affairs the crew of “Apocalypse Now” had with locals functions as a base, but is not addressed so much, as the film focuses on the antagonism of Ford and Rich, and the obvious erotic triangle that was bound to happen at some point. The entertaining aspect is also stressed by a number of artistically shot but definitely steamy sex scenes, and the fact that most of the protagonists usually roam around half naked. In that fashion, the film functions much as Hollywood productions in the setting of the beach.
In terms of acting, two performances stand apart. Ana Abad-Santos as Chona exemplifies the fact that due to her age, she is a more a friend than a mother to her son. The scenes where she is drunk or stoned are actually hilarious and adorable at the same time. Annicka Dolonius is also great as Fiona, particularly after the moments she begins to fear that she will lose Ford. The rest of the actors (Sid Lucero as Ford, Rk Bagatsing as Rich and Gwen Zamora as Serena) function nicely withing the general aesthetics of the film, but do not excel in terms of acting.
Ike Avellana’s cinematography is a thing of beauty, with the tropical setting providing material for a number of beautiful shots, with the ones on the beach and the sea standing apart. Lawrence S. Ang’s editing keeps the film flowing, and Armi Millare’s music fits the general essence of the movie perfectly.
“Apocalypse Child” may lack depth, but is very pleasant to the eye in all its aspects, and thus a very easy film to watch with its focus being on entertainment.
“Apocalypse Child” was the winner of the People’s Jury’s Award of the 10th Five Flavours Film Festival in Warsaw.