Film Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

King Palisoc’s “Tandem” is a small film with a big message as it offers a slice of Lower Depth in Metro Manila.

JM de Guzman and Nico Antonio in "Tandem." Commendable ensemble acting.

JM de Guzman and Nico Antonio in “Tandem.” Commendable ensemble acting.

If you are wondering what kind of lives those notorious riding-in-tandem toughies are leading, “Tandem” provides a story that might as well represent the low life in many parts of the metropolis.

They have no decent job, they are raising families at so much risk and there is no time in their daily struggles that their lives are not at risk.

But the film is really a touching story of two brothers who care for each other no matter how much worst and hopeless their miserable lives have become.

In this aspect, the acting of lead actors JM de Guzman and Nico Antonio is one reason you should see this film.

First of all, the characters are the kind you would see in a typical neighborhood in the bowels of say, Quezon City which has become synonymous with frequent occurrence of riding in tandem at work.

With his lean features, Nico Antonio is not the kind who can figure in action thriller.

But the man can act and his face can tell a lot of stories. In one instance, he is the face of desperation; in another, he is the face of a caring husband and later in the film, he is the face of a concerned and loving brother who must protect kith and kin at all cost.

Writer Zig Marasigan happily captures the lingo of Lower Depth and indeed, some lines in the film have shock value. There is a scene where JM de Guzman’s love partner Elora Espano casually compares the brothers’ endowments and in another frame, she figures in a steamy love scene as though it would be her lover’s last fling.

Director King Palisoc. His collaboration with screen writer Zig Marasigan has good result.

Director King Palisoc. His collaboration with screen writer Zig Marasigan has good result.

There is a lot to admire in Antonio’s acting especially the way he delineated his sense of desperation.

De Guzman compliments him with his ability to connect with his brother’s woes. There is complete rapport in the two actors and in between their characters’ daily toil, you can see the ties that bind.

The women in their lives (Rochelle Pangilinan and Elora Espano) did pretty well. The character of Pangilinan is fed up with a life spent fleeing from law enforces and one day, she simply breaks down. She can only take so much. A small moment like this illuminates Pangilinan’s acting.

Of course others in the cast did just as well notably Joel Saracho who plays concerned neighbor giving us a rare glimpse of his acting flair as a seasoned ensemble actor.

The villains in the person of wayward policemen played by Alan Paule and Paolo O’Hara are equally commendable. They confirm the perception that indeed law enforcers are in cahoots with lawbreakers. They have their own moments of desperation as when their plans go awry and the only solution at hand is plain liquidation of protagonists.

Watching “Tandem” is like looking into a slice of what has become of Philippine society.

While the film is about smalltime snatchers, you see the equivalent of the same shocking scenario happening even in the confines of police headquarters.

Indeed, “Tandem” is a small film but it leads us to the big awareness that crime is not the monopoly of the marginalized.

Poster of "Tandem." Opening in cinemas February 17.

Poster of “Tandem.” Opening in cinemas February 17.

As for director Palisoc, he has the uncanny gift for telling a story minus the frills.

Working closely with writer Marasigan, Palisoc has come up with an output that can stand on its own merit.

I am curious what kind of output they can produce telling the story of scam queen Janet Napoles in a future film they might as well label, ”Conspiracy.”

What is commendable is that a new breed of actors and directors are asserting themselves and are able to come up with something worthy of the moviegoers time even with limited budget.

For this reason, “Tandem” is highly recommended.

It will open in cinemas February 17.

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