Honor Roll: Bird Box, Mowgli, and Roma

Honor Roll: Bird Box, Mowgli, and Roma

Your call whether or not you should close your eyes for these movies.

Bird Box

Netflix took a giant leap of faith when they released Bird Box last Christmas season. It’s highly unlikely for people to choose horror over sappy Christmas movies starring long-lost twins and royal families, but alas, the power of Sandra Bullock trumped all previously held assumptions.

Bird Box’s monster is unlike anything you’ve seen, because well, you really can’t see it. It’s a mysterious invisible figure that drives who sees them to death. Malorie, along with two children aptly called Boy and Girl, tries to escape these monsters on the way to a sanctuary.

While it doesn’t have the most unique plot, the movie also gets a lot of unfair comparisons. “It’s like A Quiet Place starring a Michael Jackson lookalike,” they say. First of all, how dare you. Second of all, while it may be true to some degree, Bird Box is not as effective as the film it was being compared to. Horror movies almost always share the same plot (i.e. “don’t go there or else you will die”), but it’s the feeling of terror that audiences look for. Bird Box’s scenes mostly happen in daylight, taking away the thrill that these types of films are known for.

Horror movies are scary because we can see the monsters that are haunting the characters. It’s tough to imagine what they’re scared of if we only see their reactions. We love the spooks; that’s why we’re watching horror movies. We want to get scared so bad that we lose sleep over it. Right now, the only thing scary is our future with authoritarian leaders. (Maybe that’s what they’re seeing.)

The film’s success can be attributed to two things: great timing and  — let’s be honest here — the memes. It was worth watching just to understand that bathtub video with the mom and the two kids and to create great Bird Box content. But for the love of Malorie, please don’t do the Bird Box challenge. Don’t cross the street or play with knives blindfolded. This film is not worth dying for. — Maine Manalansan

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

For the most part, the latest rehash of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is nothing new. We’ve all seen the animated Disney film, and some of us saw its live-action counterpart, so at this point the story’s ingrained in our heads: a boy raised by a pack of wolves in the jungles of India. The boy, Mowgli (played here by Rohan Chand), then becomes a target by tiger Shere Khan (Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch) and is forced to flee the jungle to a village of his own kind.

In Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, there’s dissonance between the imagery and the script. If you’re looking for fun-loving bears that sing about bare necessities, you won’t find them here — it’s all about the perils of the jungle, lurking in every inch of it. There’s lawlessness to the proceedings, particularly Mowgli being bitten, slashed, bruised and having the scars to prove it 70% of the time.

To its credit, it’s visually stunning fare. From almost-human animals to the lush landscapes of the jungle, everything feels real and suspending your disbelief isn’t so hard. And yet the drone of a script almost makes Disney’s adaptations sound articulate, dragging what could’ve been a fast-paced exploration of what it truly means to belong. The visuals bite — everything else merely nibbles. — Gian Nicdao


The last time a Filipino audience was forced to confront the plight of the domestic worker via a work of brutal honesty, it was when Alex Tizon’s controversial piece, “My Family’s Slave,” came out in The Atlantic. In it, Tizon (with all the baggage that saddles being a bystander to such dark happenings) excavates the parts of his memory and privileged upbringing that are difficult to look at, and compels his readers to confront the conflicts between the middle and lower class, the ways the domestic and political collide, and the ways love blooms and resists in spite of it all.

And while Alfonso Cuarón and Tizon do not necessarily share the same concerns, one can’t help but see Roma in kind of the same way. This semi-autobiographical Netflix film, partially based on (and dedicated to) the woman who looked after Cuarón and his family, follows Cleo (played by Yalitza Aparicio), a domestic worker employed by a well-to-do family living in the politically turbulent locale of 1970s Mexico. In Roma, Cleo dwells in and between different worlds: a city patrolled by violent soldiers who claim the lives of children; the family life of her employer, beset by the kind of drama your titas gossip about during Christmas; and her personal life, the perils of which she attempts to confront with a quiet resolve.

The decisions that Cuarón makes with Roma clearly come from a man who’s mastered his craft, and the film demonstrates a kind of attentiveness and care most viewers wouldn’t normally pay to the workers they employ. The way the decidedly black-and-white color scheme paints Roma’s world with a kind of starkness. The way the camera will often linger on a moment of intense quiet, as if allowing a wound to bleed and drip. How is it that a scene involving one of the characters standing on one leg made me gasp and teeter on the edge of weeping? Roma feels like a world so splendidly crafted I almost feel bad that I had to watch it on my four-year-old laptop. (To be honest I’m grateful — Roma has a few moments so emotionally throttling I had to pause just to holler and properly recover. God forbid I do that inside a cinema.)

I entered Roma knowing that I would be watching a serious film, and came out feeling like I had been dismantled and put back together again a dozen times. Here is a brutally honest film that, like high tidal waves, submerges you in its depths, and throws you back up to gratefully gasp for life, and all its love and pain.— Jam Pascual

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