Cinemalaya review: 'Distance' is a well-crafted family drama

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2018 10:21 AM

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Perci Intalan's "Distance" opens with Liza (Iza Calzado) wandering around a wide sweep of beach in the southern coast of England against an overcast sky to a mournful melody. She then sips coffee, reads a book, buys groceries, gathers her letters, and goes home. Unbeknownst to many people, Liza is just going through the motions in the wake of a loved one's death.

While still struggling to come to terms with her loss, she gets an unlikely visitor -- her husband Anton (Nonie Buencamino) whom she walked out on five years ago. Anton didn't visit her to stir the pot. He's inviting Liza to come back into their lives, and in the process, mend fences with their daughters. Upon Anton's request, she goes back to the Philippines.

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"Distance" takes its time to get to where it's going. It builds through an accretion of details, meanders through the lives of characters, and focuses sometimes on small, observed moments. As the film progresses, it slowly unfurls the cracks in the relationship among family members. Concise flashbacks are also doled out to explain Liza's decision for abandoning her family.

As Liza tries to rekindle the bond with her children, she didn't realize how deep the wounds have gone, particularly on her eldest daughter Karla (Therese Malvar). It also didn't help that her arrival came unannounced. The children are pushed to the wall. Bottled-up resentment and anger bubble up to the surface. The chasm between Liza and Karla, which makes up the bulk of the film, comes to a slow boil until they are forced to have that painful conversation they've been avoiding.

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But because "Distance" kept the truth obscured and unanswered questions for too long, it runs over the film. As it doesn't move things fast, the film doesn't have that fullness, so by turns, it feels cold and detached. What the movie succeeds in doing is telling a person's struggle for freedom and ultimate happiness without judgment. It treats its female lead with dignity and respect. Decision in life always comes with a price and "Distance" shows how strong a family can hold is measured by its resilience.

The most charming part of the movie is its top-shelf cast, anchored by compelling performances from Calzado and Buencamino. They are never showboating, but there's ferocity beneath their careful exterior. The understated visual style, punctuated by its melancholic musical score, also complement the intimate narrative of the film. "Distance" left the door open when it ends, but there seems solace for the family in the offing.