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Rakenrol [2011]

Shot over two years ago, and infused with a love for the underground music scene that both director Quark Henares and co-writer Diego Castillo are involved with, Rakenrol is a lightly comic charmer that's sustained by its likeable leads and easygoing, big-hearted style. Though this fourth feature by Henares (Gamitan, Keka) is a personal work in many respects — especially with its total absorption in the young, indie music scene of small clubs, wacky misfits, young wannabes and pretentious scammers — it's as much a love story set in that milieu as a movie about the milieu itself. What holds the episodic film together is the undeclared and unrequited love of the main character, songwriter Odie, for his high-school flame Irene, who's since blossomed into a beautiful young woman who either doesn't recognise or won't admit to Odie's feelings for her.

With no great emotional traumas, Henares and Castillo keep this element quietly bubbling away beneath the patchwork narrative of the two leads and their loafer friends Mo and Junfour as they negotiate the bottom rungs of the music scene. Though the ending is never hugely in doubt (given the movie's optimistic tone), it does spring one half-suprise near the end, and to its credit manages to keep the love story within bounds by concentrating its resolution in one, well-written scene near the end which questions the narrow line between love and friendship. It's hardly an earth-moving moment, but both actress-singer Glaiza de Castro (Still Life, Squalor) and actor Jason Abalos (Adela) come through strongly, with de Castro showing she can do more than just cute.

With Abalos mainly in an observer role, the highly photogenic De Castro, now 23, is the main driver of the film, but she's given strong support by Ketchup Eusebio (Cinco) as fellow band member Mo. The showiest playing comes from well-known singer-actor Diether Ocampo as Odie's love-rival — a wicked send-up of a rock lothario, who's more in love with himself than anyone else, that just about stays the right side of going way over the top. The same can't be said of Ramon Bautista, as a super-camp music video director, and Ricardo Cepeda, as a New Age guru, but they're all part of the movie's good-natured fun.

Henares' shooting style is simple and unadorned, with handheld camerawork that's always focused on the actors. The film has no particular sense of place but the dialogue (with some laugh-out-loud moments) and engaging performances make that unnecessary. Given the movie's inconsequential development, trimming of the second half by about 10 minutes would improve its flow, but otherwise editing is tight, with scenes always cut off before over-running their natural length.

'Rakenrol' Movie Trailer:

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