Quick Take: Malamaya

We now live in a “glorious” era, where stories of May-December romances have become prolific. So prolific in fact that we have two in Cinemalaya this year. While comparisons with Glorious are inevitable, Malamaya has its own merits that warrant a serious look.

She’s an aging painter who’s losing her relevance and he’s an up-and-coming in-demand photographer. Aside from their love for art, sex, and cigarettes, they don’t really have much in common. Arguments are bound to happen, triggered by their generational differences – from personality to habits to gestures of love. But most interesting is their lack of appreciation for each other’s talent. She feels his photographs are very amateurish while he doesn’t understand her artistic process. She is inspired by tranquility while he gets excited by chaos. In a sense, woman and man are the embodiment of old art versus new art and how fundamentally different and incompatible they are.

That being said, the movie feels too short. And I feel it lost an opportunity for us, the audience, to connect with the characters. We aren’t given a glimpse of what’s really going on inside the woman’s head. Clearly, she has a lot of baggage that she brings to relationships. Why does she refuse to sell her work? Why did she decide to stay in the Philippines? We get that she’s complex but not why. Sunshine Cruz’s sensitive performance reflects that inner struggle: There’s always something going on in her mind for every action she takes.

Perhaps like looking at a painting, we are only expected to spectate and appreciate the small details. And in that regard, Malamaya is indeed a work of art.

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