Dodo Dayao’s new film, Midnight in a Perfect World, has made its proper digital release via Upstream. In time for this, we take a look at its shocking finale, a gorgeously captured sequence lit only with smartphone screens, where a group of unsuspecting youth faces an unexplainable threat.
The prospect of a ‘perfect world’ will entice no one aware of how real life goes. As humans, our understanding of the world is intimate and resigned to the fact that there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’. Whoever buys into this utopic idea is unaware—no, ignorant—of the costs.
In Dodo Dayao’s second feature, the Philippines is lulled into a false sense of order through a curfew that sets off at midnight. Filipinos have, incredibly, accepted this curfew as a fixture of their lives if it means to keep the rivers clean and the economy on the up-and-up. The characters, belonging mostly to the working middle-class, gather to investigate disappearances seemingly linked to the curfews.
Midnight in a Perfect World’s parallels to Martial Law (and to some extent, the Duterte regime) are unmistakable. Yet, it’s the movie’s firm grasp on the middle class’s ignorance that has you shaken. I am, of course, referring to the gorgeously shot sequence where the characters decide to step out into total darkness. Earlier, we hear them squabble, rather obnoxiously: ‘Hindi importante kung ano’ng nangyayari,’ one person says. ‘Basta walang nangyayari sa’kin, sa’tin.‘
So, imagine the catharsis of seeing these characters, whose motivations to investigate the curfews vary from mere curiosity to sheer boredom, slowly realize how foolish it was to break curfew, or rather, not to have challenged them in the very first place.
Being a Dodo Dayao film, Midnight doesn’t set itself to fit this mold exclusively. I’m sure after repeat viewings I’ll take its story, and this very sequence, a different way. Until then, it lives rent-free in my head as that part of the movie where apathetic Filos learn that some things are bigger than their painfully unconcerned existence.
Watch the trailer for Midnight in a Perfect World:
This piece originally appeared on the Society of Filipino Film Reviewers as part of its 2020 Pinoy Rebyu Awards. Read the full list of the best scenes from 2020 Filipino films here.