Matangtubig is a quiet rural town, whose political leadership and police claim that zero crimes occur there. However, when two girls go missing, with the one turning up a few days later dead and the other nowhere to be found, the small town goes in an uproar. Journalists from all over the country come to the area to follow the story, the woman who is president of the village tries to keep the balance and to exemplify her leadership, while a lot of the villagers do not want to cancel the annual festival, which is scheduled to take place shortly after the incident. As the police and many of the villagers comb the forests surrounding the area to find the girl, a man who has witnessed the crime is struggling to decide whether he should go to the authorities, since he is afraid for his own family. Lastly, when some things are revealed for the two girls, the situation worsens even more
Jet Leyco elaborately combines art-house aesthetics with Brian Gonzales’s crime script, as he highlights the way a small society reacts to such a groundbreaking case, amidst the pressure of the press and the politicians. The villagers do not know how to cope with this heinous crime, as they try to find an easy victim to blame. This tendency becomes quite evident in a scene where a slightly drunk man is yelling that drug addicts caused the tragedy, and the government should close the nightclubs. The villagers, although in the beginning put much effort into finding the missing girls, eventually return to their routine, with the festival being the highlight of it. There is a very beautiful and quite meaningful scene, where the funeral walk crosses the festival parade in the street, in an awkward for the latter sequence, that clearly shows Leyco’s opinion of what is more important.
Furthermore, the film focuses much on the character of the witness, who is in constant struggle regarding the dilemma of protecting his family and particularly his daughter, and revealing what he saw in order to help the mothers of the two girls. Amante Pulido is impressive in this role, as he emits his angst and inner struggle from every pore, despite the fact that he has to appear calm and detached.
Another aspect of the film is the critique of the press and the politicians, both of which are presented as cruel people who care only of their own agenda, without any regard for the people around them.
However, the ending of the movie, which makes a leap towards the supernatural, seems completely out of place and can only be explained by the appeal magical realism has in Filipino culture or maybe as an ironic comment to the supernatural films.
Tristan Salas’ cinematography is one of the film’s biggest assets, with him portraying magnificent images of the beach and the forests. The aforementioned scene where the two processions meet is the highlight of his work. Brian Gonzales is also the editor of the film. His technique may seem a bit abrupt at times, but as the story progresses, it seems to suit perfectly the movie’s aesthetics.
“Town in a Lake” is a very interesting film, which would be a lot better if it had a different ending.