Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thelma (2011, Paul Soriano)

An Ilocana speedster named Thelma (an anagram of Hamlet) ponders the question: to run or not to run?

Thelma Molino, eldest daughter of a farmer and a weaver in Ilocos Norte, is 400 kilometers away from home. She begins to question her decision to train with a Manila-based coach. She misses her family. Her mother is sick and her sister is incapacitated by a leg injury. The hardships of training and a bout with bullying make her closer to quitting. A fortuitous long-distance phone call from her parents soothes her wearied mind and she sticks it out in the city. The elder Molinos are truly Molinos de Viento or windmills. They are sources of energy and inspiration for Thelma.

Paul Soriano’s growing-up story is well-structured and beautiful just like the scenic Patapat viaduct in Ilocos Norte. Picturesque aerial shots and lovely dusk/evening shots by Odyssey Flores, a regular director of photography for Brillante Mendoza’s films, complemented the sure hand of Soriano. The use of Ilocano language adds authenticity to the scenes. There are also a couple of hilarious scene-stealing ad-libs by the bulky female thrower.

However, Soriano’s mostly-focused direction was marred by a false start and a few bumpy scenes. Problems with crowd control plagued the scene showing the two siblings running away after stealing empanadas. Instead of presenting Thelma as a speed phenom the scene shows her being outran by her chubby sibling. I’m also not that happy with the car accident scene and the lack of perspiration from Thelma during the 5K race scene and the training scenes.

The film features a convincing portrayal by Maja Salvador as listless, delinquent lass. She looks and smells like a rural girl especially in the scene showing her bringing a packed meal to her father. She allows herself to be deglamorized a bit (e.g. pimples do show up in close shots). She should have gone farther by allowing herself to be shot with perspiration or with blistered feet.

Based on true stories of runners, Soriano does a good job of incorporating them into the film. However, he fails to capitalize though on two running elements which cropped up in the film. The windmills or wind turbines seem to connote the importance of ‘second wind’ to runners. The ‘second wind’ phenomenon should have been shown to add more thrills and suspense in the final racing segment.

Another element shown is barefoot running. What if Thelma’s second-hand shoes gave out and she was forced to run barefoot? Her winning the race barefooted would have been more dramatic and realistic because she’s used to it. And, didn’t Abebe Bikila win a gold medal barefooted in the marathon race of the Rome Olympics in 1960?

Thelma made me yearn to put on my running shoes. Now, if only the weather cooperates… 

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