It’s a little disheartening that films like Thop Nazareno’s Edward suffer from the same malaise that has plagued the nationwide rollouts of local independent films of the same ilk. Such release is often overshadowed by a Hollywood import, in the film’s case: Todd Philipps’ Joker. Casual moviegoers miss out on the opportunity of seeing them before they are prematurely pulled out of cinemas. It’s a shame because Edward is actually a more cohesive character study, one that dwells in compassion as equally as tragedy, that chronicles a young boy’s coming of age in the backdrop of our struggling medical institutions.
The social commentary lingers in the background and never overwhelms the mundanity of Edward’s daily concerns. This is still just a young man’s journey as he tries to navigate his responsibilities with his sickly father, go on misadventures with his frivolous best friend, and receive fleeting encounters with first love. It’s all very bittersweet but because all of this occurs around facilities and medical personnel that are heavily understaffed and poorly managed, there is considerable weight to the implications of each scene.
The opening sequence, for example, follows a floating camera as it glides from one medical emergency to another and witnesses the chaos of the proceedings as they are accommodated by nurses and doctors that are all too familiar with this daily hustle, as well as the panicking patients and relatives who have delayed their admission in the hospital until the last possible minute. It’s an endemic where both parties suffer. However, the sequence ends with Edward and his best friend unfazed by the anarchy and instead opting to exchange bets on whether a certain patient will die or survive. Their exchange is not distasteful, it’s merely the extent of how daily tragedies become reliable sources of amusement for boys who have little avenues left to amuse themselves.
Louise Abuel shines as Edward whose silent turmoil and bursts of sincere enthusiasm are genuinely endearing. Fortunately, he is surrounded by an able set of supporting characters who each bring their form of pathos to the table. Elijah Canlas plays his best friend whose arsenal of tics and unexpected reactions are brimming with youthful energy. Ella Cruz as his young and mysterious paramour is captivating. She steals the movie in every scene she’s in. Dido De La Paz plays his father and the fleeting interactions they share reveal a storied history that is both warm and heartbreaking.
Thop Nazareno has noted that Edward is the second film in his planned trilogy of films about fathers and sons. He displays the same sensitive direction that has allowed Kiko Boksingero to become more viscerally affecting than the plot would suggest. These are two films that could have dangerously fallen to the pitfalls of melodrama and yet never once succumbs to poorly staged confrontations.
Edward is the kind of film evocative of childhood with all the bittersweet memories sheltered in the smallest of interactions. The final scene is crushing in that it witnesses Edward at his most vulnerable surrounded by other people whose stories are bound to be as scathing. He is no longer at the harbor of his innocence as we watch him cry helplessly, caught up in the inevitability of his growth.