That’s how I would summarize the entire film in one word. I was already curious about Ploning when I heard that Judy Ann Santos was coming up with an indie. The curiosity was fueled even more by the fuss that went over how it was going head to head with her mother studio’s (ABS-CBN) other project*.
Ploning’s story revolves around a 30-year-old unmarried woman in the town of Cuyo, Palawan. Silent but thoroughly compassionate, she touches the lives of the people surrounding her, most especially the innocent young Digo. At first, one would be led to believe that this is a love story, where the hopeful Ploning waits in vain for the return of her lost love Tomas. But as the story progresses, one realizes that the film is less about romanticism and more about love that encompasses different people from different walks of life.
Notable actors are Mylene Dizon as the liberal nurse who takes care of Ploning’s aging father and Cedric Amit as the impressionable five-year-old Digo. We have mixed reactions to Digo: I found him adorable, my friend Cham was irritated. Of course, Ms. Judy Ann Santos as Ploning makes me believe that there is indeed hope beyond the countless screaming and slapping hysteria that define Philippine cinema. Not much tears can be seen on the screen here; the actors made use of subtlety and wordplay to deliver. And deliver they did. I didn’t even notice that my former student, Ira, was wearing mascara until I saw it leave a streak below her eyes. I was swallowing a lump in my throat as well.
Ploning’s storytelling is non-linear and the movie did start out slowly at first, perhaps to emphasize on the kind of slow-paced provincial life the Cuyonans lived. There were a few scenes that I felt could’ve been taken out and some actors, in particular the adult Digo (portrayed by Boodie Fernandez), could’ve fleshed their parts out better. There were also times when I’d feel that there were too many actors than what was needed. Overall, though, I’m happy with the cinematography, the lighting, and the plot itself. The experience was magical. As my friend Elena put it succinctly, Ploning seems like something she’d read out of a hardcover.
*ABS-CBN’s other project, When Love Begins, is a romantic story that stars a middle aged, albeit hot, guy and a very young girl that used to call him Uncle Aga. Needless to say, I’m actually very disgusted with this pairing. If Aga Muhlach wants to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor, he really should take roles that fit his age and stop fishing for leading ladies out of baby carriages…unless the role actually calls for a May-December love affair. And no, a ten-year gap in the characters’ ages does not constitute a May-December affair (unless we’re talking about an older woman and a younger man).