When the cities sleep, and you can’t…

Sleepless scene
The “bed scene” from Sleepless (2015), which has been recently shown in some SM Cinemas this year. (Screengrab from Direct Prime Cruz’s YouTube Channel.
Sleepless-Poster
Poster of Sleepless for the QC International Film Festival 2015 (from WhenInManila.com. Used for review purposes only. No copyright infringement intended).

Last Sunday, 28 May 2017, my wife and I have had a chance to see the two-year old movie of Prime Cruz, Sleepless, a rom-com (romantic comedy) which was a part of the Cine Lokal–a joint project of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and SM Lifestyle Entertainment, Inc. (SMLEI).

In an article published by the Manila Bulletin, it says that Cine Lokal is part of the commitment of the Government and the film and cinema industry to ” support Philippine cinema as well as champion independent films.” The partnership between FDCP, represented by its chair Liza Diño and SMLEI, represented by its president, Edgar Tejerero will last for three years, that is from 2017 to 2020.

Two Sleepless People in the Heart of a Big City

The story revolves around two people who cannot sleep–Gem (Glaiza de Castro) and Barry (Dominic Roco).

This is not only a case of insomnia, but the loneliness gnawing the hearts, the minds, and the soul of the two main characters, which technically face the same problem: the need for love and reassurance, amid the chaos of their “inner cities”. As one blogger who reviewed the film said, the movie is about brokenness, and surely it was.

Gem is a lonely mistress to Vince (TJ Trinidad) while Barry is longing for his “superhero,” his child, who was taken by his ex-partner somewhere in Canada. The reason of Barry why he did apply to work as a call center agent is to have money so that he can search for his family in Canada.

The heavy story has become lighter with the light conversations between the two main characters–about zombies and zombie apocalypse; about polygamous genes among males, as they eat in their favorite pares joint; the short tutorial on skateboarding; and other stuff. But the heaviness of heart is a reality that these insomniacs cannot avoid–Barry’s family is out there, somewhere, where he cannot reach them, and that Gem is actually longing for the love that in fact, she has no right to keep.

In the movie, there are two really heartbreaking scenes: One, is when the box of toys Barry has sent to Canada were sent back to him, and that his boss fired him on the next day; and when Gem saw Vince coming out from a restaurant in Quezon Memorial Circle with his family, and they were very happy. And I told myself, upon seeing that scene of Gem, “That is the last straw that broke the camel’s back.” (For the complete synopsis, you can read it here.)

Not Your Ordinary Story

Sleepless is not your typical story.

One needs to have an open mind and an open heart to understand the metaphors that the writer, Jen Chuaunsu infused to her script.

The flickering light in Gem’s bathroom, the cup of noodles, the British and the American accents (one of the requirements to become a call center agent), the zombie stories, the pearl necklace as gift from a lover (which is supposed not to be your lover for he has a family), the abstract paintings which Gem saw at the art exhibit, and Barry’s drawings–all of these are symbols of what the protagonists are going through.

For example, the broken light in Gem’s bathroom that Vince has fixed for her are the same situation that they were in–both have flickering hopes of finding the cure for their loneliness. Meanwhile, the abstract painting which Gem has seen during an exhibit depicts the status of her life and her romance: blurred, without exact meaning, without directions.

Gem tries to conceal her loneliness aby wearing a mask of being contented and happy with her life by sticking to monotonous call center work. It has become her comfort zone, the box where she enclosed herself in. Barry, on the other hand, used colors and lines to cope with his inner struggles as he tries to locate his family in the huge country called Canada.

As you may realize, the story of Sleepless is simple and intricate at the same time.

Simple, for it doesn’t need a complicated storytelling to bring into the fore the core issues that the protagonists are facing and going through.

The film is intricate for it needs keen intelligence and strong understanding of complex human emotions to sew the stories of Gem and Barry together, which all started as individual stories and has been sewn together by their work in a call center company in Ortigas.

The stitches that hold the fabric of their, now interconnected story, were strengthened by their friendship and by strong their desire to heal each other’s wounds–on Gem’s side, her willingness to help Barry to find his family in huge country has given the latter that hope of finding again his source of happiness–even though it will take sometime to find it again. Meanwhile, on Barry’s side, he helped Gem to realize her worth as a human and as a human being, and that there is a need to run, to become mobile, so that you can escape the “zombie” that wants to eat her heart out, and that is her illicit relationship with Vince.

In other words, their unusual bond, their being Soulmates in one way or another, has been the sleeping pill that lulls them into a good night sleep.

Beautifully executed by Director Prime Cruz, coupled with good cinematography, editing, and the music of BP ValenzuelaSleepless is a gem of Filipino cinema. It is not surprising that this film has gathered awards such as Best Picture in the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) Jury Prize for Best Picture in 2015 in QC Film Festival; Pylon Awards for Best Actor in a Film for Dominic Roco; a nomination for Best Picture in Pylon Awards; and a nomination for Prime Cruz at the Grand Prix, Osaka Asian Film Festival in 2016.

The film was produced by The Idea First Company of the directors Jun Lana and Perci Intalan, in association with Indioboy Productions, Monoxide Works, and Arsenal.

Full Cast and Crew

Directed by: Prime Cruz

Written by: Jenilee Chuansu …(as Jen Chuaunsu)

Cast (in credits order):

Glaiza de Castro
Dominic Roco
TJ Trinidad
Bea Galvez
Irma Adlawan
Dennis Marasigan

Produced by:
Gino Parma

Music by:
Bp Valenzuela

Cinematography by:
Tey Clamor

Film Editing by:
Galileo Te

Production Design by
Nestor Abrogena Jr.

Music Department
Denise Santos, composer: additional music (Info from IMDb)

(Updated 08 June 2017, 8:23 PM Manila Standard Time)

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