Who shall make a great film about the great lockdown when it is over? Apparently, there is already one. Perhaps, “great” is such a monumental modifier it loses its kick when applied to a work that is acerbic. That film is called When This Is All Over—hope all over it but also hopelessness, a sigh here, and a sense of recklessness from beings who have seen the possibility of extinction.
The film opens with a shot that follows our young man. He passes by a line, skips it and enters a tunnel of light where there seems to be none at the end of it. But there is; in fact, there are lights but they seem to snuff out brilliance from everyone. In a dance? In a trance? Our young man keeps on moving until a voice calls him out. Are you the guy?
That is his name, The Guy. No more and no less. To add more to it is to kill him. To deduct some from him is to bring him alive. It is good enough that he can move, stop somewhere, press himself against a wall, not a loser but also not a winner. He is our guy.
He is trafficking in drugs. He comes upon young, supple women, sophisticated beyond their age. His night shall end with money that he saves so he can leave this shithole or this hell.
But hell comes upon them: the men and women gyrating as if there is no tomorrow all at once are alerted by their mobile phones. They find out: Manila will be locked down.
“The party is over. It’s time to call it a day.” Well, they are not only calling it a day but a night. They are witnesses to a social universe that is shutting down. Is this a punishment for those who have all the money in the world to dance and drink through the night?
In Kevin Mayuga’s film, When This Is All Over, no vindication is offered because there was no indictment anyway. This is just human life and the world gone awry. Caught in the throes are people whose lives would go on, lockdown or no lockdown. If there is a lesson in this cinema, it is that in this world, there are people who can go through life breaking rules without being punished. Except with a virus.
However, if When this is all over is a treatise on class structure, then it would have been tedious viewing. Endure the mind-games and drug-induced separate realities (they could go on and on and on) and the film will reward you with the gifts of original cinema. There is the screenplay, which has produced the most exuberant dialogues, even if many of the characters are made to speak in English. The brisk exchange, the dark wit, and the saddest send-up of other people’s conditions are so natural one could sense all the actors are acting their own neuroses and narcissism. I could feel the glee in the audience’s heart when these brats are “discovered.”
And there is the story of how the lockdown has proceeded: in a condominium. A cross between Sartre’s no-exit existentialism and a circus that has never recovered its investment, the building houses these characters who are locked down in their own twisted desires (to party and forget the pandemic) and the guards and staff who are the caretakers of the Underworld, except their station in life has not given them the chance to study myths. The condo world is headed by Miss Kate (the glorious Lotlot Bustamante), benign to the rich and a dour dominatrix to staff.
As the mother, Ana Abad Santos is hopelessly a Madonna whose arms have long been vacated by her son. She pretends to love her boy now left to fend for himself in a land that has become a foreign soil for him as he badly wants to be Stateside.
Two actors of varying popularity are the newest heralds of good performances. Let us begin with Juan Karlos who reminds you of a very juvenile John Lloyd. He gets scenes that have allowed him to show what we call “range” but, interestingly, he never becomes self-conscious, losing in the character of a drug runner what he really is: a boy. In a dream scene, Juan Karlo’s “The Guy” looks for his mother and encounters a prostitute, all this is watched by a child. Then in a twist that is awfully disarming, he is faced with the small boy. Here the line uttered is heartbreaking: “Are you good?”—the same line delivered to him always by those he supplies with chemical happiness. The Guy the boy, is a macabre if not a literal depiction of a return to the past. Juan Karlos proves to be an actor of supreme strength and sincerity.
Another wreath of admiration belongs to this obscure actor with a piquant name, Jorrybell Agoto. She appears as the guard in charge of the roof deck. She is the type one ignores, the face that one easily forgets. As the film progresses, however, we become aware of her own self-awareness. In the end, The Guy runs after her, Rosemarie. They face. She is expressionless. She has left the reading of her face to us. She has lured us into her quotidian world, the ordinariness that gave us glory about ourselves when we pretended to be kind to each other when everyone seemed to be dying around us and dreamt of a wonderful world when all this was over.
When This is All Over is directed by Kevin Mayuga from the screenplay credited to him, Abbey Mayuga-de Guia and Benedict O. Mendoza. The nearly surreal images delivered by its director of cinematography, Martika Ramirez-Escobar, complete our incursion into a world that we survived only to face back the world domineering.