Family, faith, and fortune: A review of Pauwi Na

Director Paolo Villaluna returns from a seven year silence with Pauwi Na, a tragic comedy that chronicles the real-life story of a family who travels from their shabby home in the slums of Manila back to their province–all via two rickety pedicabs. Although their journey is punctuated with familial bickering and repeated misfortune, the clan strives to find a better life for themselves.

The story follows Mang Pepe (Bembel Roco), a sickly pedicab driver and his wife, Aling Remy (Cherry Pie Picache), a tough-loving laundry woman, who are dissatisfied with their barely-getting-by life in the city. After striking some luck, Pepe convinces wife Remy, their son JP (Jerald Napoles), an otherwise happy-go-lucky thief; daughter Pina (Chai Fonacier), a street vendor with a fondness for shoes; and JP’s pregnant wife, Isabel (Meryll Soriano), who is blind, to return to the province. Trailing the family is a blunt, thorn-crowned Jesus Christ (who only Isabel can see), who smokes cigarettes and lends a helping hand to the dysfunctional, albeit loving family.

The cast’s dynamic as a family is flawless–Roco and Picache play all the touching intricacies of a married couple past their prime, while Napoles and Fonacier’s sibling affection is familiar and believable.

The film provides a social commentary on Philippine poverty and reveals harsh realities on the grisly standard of living of the poor through how the family copes on their arduous journey. Jesus himself provides startling truths on the misconstrued Filipino conception about blind faith. With this, Pauwi Na somewhat borders on didactic, its approach to getting its message across not quite as effortless as it aspires to be.

Chugging along for two hours at a leisurely pace, the film’s pivotal points occur sporadically, with the height of drama falling towards the last twenty minutes. Despite the laborious pace, the film ends on a poignant, heart-wrenching note. Pauwi Na thrives in relatable, family-oriented storytelling driven by a lovable cast that inevitably pulls at the heartstrings.

Rating: 4/5

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