Directed by Siege Ledesma
Grand Prize, 2014 Osaka Asian Film Festival
Call-center worker Estela (singer Yeng Constantino) is as disinterested in the world as gay guys are in her. At her side at the moment is Trevor (Felix Roco), who Estela inevitably falls in love with despite the fact that he has a boyfriend. Over SMS and IMs, lunch and drinks, Estela cozies up to him nevertheless, putting out her most vulnerable self.
SHIFT belongs squarely to Yeng Constantino in her big-screen debut, her natural, un-actorly instincts keeping the film from obvious grungy angst and making it more a progression of life questions answered with a quiet resignation. While she wins us over in the climactic musical number, Constantino is especially good in silence: betraying boredom at work, typing at a computer screen, peeping Trevor in a museum – a moment of alternating hopelessness and romantic bliss.
Constantino’s indie rock calm allows the film to be as gentle as a coffee date with an old friend. Likewise, it finds color in a dreary existence – literally in the call center’s blue walls, Trevor’s upbeat outfits, and especially in Estela’s electric red hair, the fiery epicenter in a storm of half-baked art projects and youthful revolutionary idealism. In the emerging middle-ground of Filipino cinema, between the soap opera hysterics and the epoch-making avant-garde, SHIFT stands out, perfectly at home as a crossover gem, achieving the right mix of tender and naturalistic, unafraid to strive for the generational zeitgeist without wearing it on its sleeve. In so doing, it effortlessly uncovers a restless pop underbelly made up of overlapping text message windows, rock songs, and dreams that refuse to die. –Brian Hu