HARI NG TONDO (2014) tells a lighthearted story of an old man, bankrupted and crushed, who decides to leave the comfortable life to go back to a purgatory where he used to be King. In the process, he drags along his two grandchildren who have had lives richer than their new neighbours. As the trio settles down in their dilapidated residential building in Tondo, they get to know what life on the other side can offer. Forgotten love gets rekindled, new strengths gets reformed, and fresh sensations gets realised.
In HARI, Director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna does not fail in giving a visual contrast, like in all of his other films. Despite the poverty milieu, he effectively delivers a watchable story even in an almost dilapidated setting, without exaggerating what we already know. Like his films in the 90s, he still directs with utmost care, and still pulls off hilarious punchlines across the scenes.
Robert Arevalo as the old Ricardo is at his best. He can command silences in serious scenes, and shake the crowd by his jokes. Chris Villongco who plays Anna, the young heartwarming socialite of a granddaughter, takes her training from theatre and magically transforms this for Siguion-Reyna’s camera. But the surprise comes mostly from Rafa Siguion-Reyna, who portrays Ricky, Ricardo’s only grandson. His subtle movements and controlled energy effectively depicts a young man slowly learning the ways of the real world.
Despite these, the denouement was a bit overripe, melodramatic, and irrelevant, but its the kind of resolution we love when we step out from a Star Cinema offering. At some point, stupid character decisions gets in the way of effective direction just so the story could progress, but it’s forgivable. After all, Siguion-Reyna does not wish to dig deep just so you’d leave the theatre full with philosophical questions. It’s simply a movie that entertains, yet gives you that gentle tap to remind you of who you really are.
HARI NG TONDO is more than a decent entry in this year’s Cinemalaya. It comes with a story that silently reminds us, that our roots are our strengths and that our heritage are our vanguard, and it is only when we learn to embrace our beginnings, can we finally call ourselves kings.
3 STARS OUT OF 5