Modern in cinematography but antique in setting, Ang Larawan proves to be one of the most unique Filipino films I’ve watched in a long time. Though its story may be a bit simplistic, the film’s style and musicality more than makes up for it.
Joanna Ampil and Rachel Alejandro take the lead as Claudia and Paula, daughters of the renowned painter Don Lorenzo. An accident left the old man crripled, but not before finishing his obra maestra, which he entrusted to his two daughters. Day in and day out, photographers, art connoisseurs and reporters visit their Intramuros house either to take a peek at the painting or place a bid. Claudia and Paula have long been suffering from poverty, but both flat out deny every offer for the painting. With Pepang and Manolo, the two older siblings, soon withdrawing their financial support and a certain Tony Javier finding an American buyer offering $10,000 for the painting, will Claudia and Paula eventually cave in?
Set in Intramuros, Ang Larawan brings to life Old Manila, a far cry from Manila we know and love (and hate) today. The film does an excellent job of immersing the audience in the setting, though it would have been nice to see the streets of Intramuros more since the majority of the movie takes place inside Don Lorenzo’s antique house.
Ampil and Alejandro shine in the film. With their theater background, they are able to emote with every line they sang. On the other hand, I don’t believe Paulo Avelino as Tony Javier was the right casting choice. While Avelino is no doubt a good actor, his limited singing ability is put on display in the early parts of the film, and someone else with a theater background could have done a better job.
I didn’t think any of the songs are particularly memorable. However, Ryan Cayabyab’s orchestral score had excellent timing all throughout the movie, adding immensely to the emotion of each scene. There was even a cameo by Cayabyab and his wife in the film. Blink and you’ll miss!
Let’s be frank. Ang Larawan doesn’t have the strongest plot. It also didn’t do an excellent job of transitioning between scenes. I also thought that the way the movie wrapped up was quite messy, making me think to myself, “Is this it?”
What makes the movie stand out are its cinematography and unique niche as a period musical. I highly recommend watching Ang Larawan – there isn’t anything quite like it in modern Philippine cinema.