Festivals, Reviews

Cinema One Originals 2019: ‘Sila-Sila’ – Putting Your Home Where Your Heart Is

In the 2013 song Strawberry Blond, Mitski sings “I love everybody, because I love you”. There’s a palpable sense of yearning in the subject of her song, and a desire in creating a home out of it. For upon creation, everything else in that small home becomes an extension and it becomes a world in which you can take refuge in. It’s everything you are and everything they are, and that becomes untouchable.

So what happens if you leave it?

In Giancarlo Abrahan’s Sila-Sila (The Same People), Gab (Gio Gahol) comes back home from Cagayan De Oro a year after breaking up with his ex-boyfriend, Jared (Topper Fabregas). In between work, he has maintained no contact with his group of friends nor reconciled with Jared. Occasionally meeting up with a lover, Gab does every little thing to avoid the consequences of his year-long disappearance. 

This fills the story with so many moments of silences thick with repressed emotions and wanton yearning. Gahol is phenomenal in capturing that lazy desire and emotional conflict in his nuanced expressions, while Fabregas is engaging to watch, struggling with the turmoil of emotions that Gabriel brings with him. It’s worth noting that the film uses an allegory of doors all throughout; Gabriel struggles with doors while Jared doesn’t make an effort to fix his—a dynamic that feels familiar. At one occasion it makes fun of it—their friends James and Nicole (played by Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar) teasing Gab with a car door upon picking him up for a high school reunion.

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Sila-Sila may occasionally have flaws in its narrative, like how Nicole and James aren’t as fleshed out as Gabriel and Jared, or how it falls trap into a very long scene, but these things can be forgiven when you think about the overall narrative. It’s a simple premise that has a sense of familiarity, especially for queer audiences. Family isn’t bound by blood but by how we create it, and Sila-Sila executes it well in its quiet scenes: the joys of seeing someone return, the drunken laughter occasionally shifting into angry confrontations, and moments of finding a similar anchor with strangers who may or may not be like you. 

It is about love first and foremost. But it’s the kind of love that’s all over the place. Sometimes it’s terrifying, like you’re not sure whether it’s still the same once you’ve returned. But we put our home where our heart is and the film tells us that while it is essential to leave home in pursuit of something else or to clear our own heads, it’s nice to leave a part of yourself in the arms of the home we create. For if we leave and forget, we can take comfort that the pieces of us that we have missed are well taken care of in the memories of our home.

While the fear of leaving and the changes it may bring may terrify us, Sila-Sila tells us that there is comfort in leaving ourselves in the arms of two or a dozen people we have made a home in. The security of knowing that we can come and go, yet still be here, anchored firmly, for there is always a place for you back into their arms. It’s the love that works after all.

 

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