Thy Womb is a very unique entry in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). Getting in the last minute thanks to one movie backing out, Thy Womb is a refreshing change to the commercial-driven movie festival.
Shaleha (Nora Aunor) is a Badjao midwife who can’t bear a child. Her husband Bangas-an (Bembol Roco) proposes that he gets a second wife so he’ll finally have the chance to have a child of his own. This begins the couple’s journey of finding the suitable woman that could give them a child they wanted for so long.
Thy Womb is a restrained quiet film as it lets the visuals do most of the talking. Small moments are lingered on even if it does not move the story forward. At times it felt like you are watching a documentary because of the film’s naturalistic vibe. People may find this approach boring but what keeps the film from being lifeless is because it focuses on the culture of a small community in Tawi Tawi which is anything but uninteresting.
The film gives us slices of life from the regular townsfolk exchanging small talks to the local market activity to the intriguing and lavish marriage proposal rituals. But what got me the most is the way it captured how life goes on in a place that is often burdened by violence. During a wedding, a gunshot was heard and a minor chaos ensued but Shaleha encouraged the newlyweds to continue dancing and they followed and soon after everything went back to normal as if there’s no more threat. Violence is nothing new, it still gives them scares but they can easily move on from it and resume their lives. It’s quite a moving scene and will make you wonder how can they live normal lives under such precarious situation.
Another interesting aspect in this film is how it gave us a look on how marriages are arranged in this culture. It presents the process in a matter-of-fact account offering no judgment but still managing to let the complexity of the situation seep through. However, I wished the film gave us more scenes on how the arrangement Bangas-an had with his second wife worked because I felt that it was not given enough time to tell that story satisfyingly.
Aunor and Roco gave restrained but very effective performances. This film has little dialogue in it but thanks to the strength of the actors they don’t need words to show their characters’ inner pain and complex feelings. The scene when they met the future second wife for the first time is the best example how an actor can do so much without uttering a single line. It’s all in the eyes.
Reports say that Thy Womb is getting pulled by a lot of theaters due to poor ticket sales. It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t give this a full-week run. Admittedly, it’s a tough sell to the mainstream audience due to the way the story is told but Thy Womb presents a picture of a culture that is fascinating and is definitely worth watching. I always hear complaints how uninspiring the MMFF slate is but this year we have a film that is not your usual MMFF fare so why not give this a chance? 9 / 10