Men in Trees

Good boy Bad boy

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” - Henry David Thoreau

Desperate men are the most interesting species of men, at least in the theatrical sensibility. Usually dominated by a hard-boiled adrocentrist and suitcasey predisposition, normally tuned men are so difficult to capture in a colorful point of view, if they are captured at all, without the color reverting to a shade of gay futility. Apart from the sacrosanct movies of Fernando Poe and the like, men who have successfully summoned themselves in order to slay towering white handkerchiefs with womanish heads, the sheer absence of a good dude flick has the industry scrounging for fresh mojo. Astig is shrewd to fill the void, helmed by GB Sampedro and produced by the Queen of Men himself Boy Abunda, the debut of this TV oriented fraternity has the audience dashing for a second run.

The movie itself is cut into four slightly intertwining episodes, almost-Amores in its rendering but still accessibly linear thanks to Charliebebs Gohetia’s editing. The gruff and unsilken demonstration of filth and testosterone is predictable enough. These men are out to survive. The streets are rough and they have to be rougher, a survivalist mentality that permeates through the film’s entirety. But as the bricks start to crumble, the unfolding somewhat effortlessly belies the staunch but artificial rigor of the permanent Man along with his preciously defended manhood. Inevitably the latter becomes another pawnable item of the city’s vicious and voluptuous grinding.

It was refreshing to see a few mainstream actors in the process of actual thespianism. The dirty-tongued Dennis Trillo was robust and multi-faceted enough to stand as the definitive paragon of the stubborn boyness that unravels under the weight of his own dire consequences. Young men are most difficult to effectively characterize under normal circumstances without coming off as formulaic. Their desires are boxed and predictable, their reaction times calculatedly similar. The stereotypes of the weak and the strong are too two-dimensional to employ in any meaty portrayal. In this movie the addition and intimation of male emotion paradoxically adds strength to the characters. It’s always the tension of feeling that kills them in the end. A strong man is the suffering man, amusing to watch and terrific to behold in its fetish proportionality.

Aside from Trillo’s irrepressible brio and Sid Lucero’s obstinacy, the middle two episodes as presented by Edgar Allan Guzman and Arnold Reyes showed more of the despondent man, bedfellows of hard living and everything in between hard things. To relinquish one’s penetrative role as bleatingly portrayed by Guzman in the fluid-ridden movie house is a prime example of a sacrifice done on the strain of a family’s common hunger. Crying and nakedness are rampant, and the women aren’t so bad at it either. Add a few sprinklings of the occasional ill-placed but good-intentioned famous person’s cameo and you have a collective acting ordeal that could possibly surprise the mainstream observer but may casually bore the jaded indie activist. Certainly this movie is not Cinemalaya’s most cerebral, perhaps a mock symbolism of masculinity itself, but the primal grace is evident enough to enthuse. Ultimately, it is a reflection of how far humans can go and how scared we are of the predator from the bottom of the tree.
Written by: Alex Milla (Guest Critic)

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