‘Whether The Weather Is Fine’ review: a heart-rending disaster drama with a surreal bent

Written by on 09/02/2022

Whether The Weather Is Fine movie review Kun Maupay Man It Panahon

Nearly nine years ago in November 2013, one of the strongest typhoons the Philippines has ever seen made landfall in the seaside city of Tacloban. The equivalent of a category 5 hurricane, Typhoon Haiyan killed over 6,000 people, with thousands more missing, tens of thousands injured, and billions lost in property and agricultural damage.

Those numbers alone, though staggering, don’t account for the mental and physical anguish that Haiyan’s survivors faced following its havoc. That last point is the beating heart of Filipino filmmaker Carlo Francisco Manatad’s Whether The Weather Is Fine (Kun Maupay Man It Panahon in Waray) – an unusual portrait of life in the aftermath of sweeping death. At its core, the Locarno Festival prize-winning film is a 104-minute meditation on the tenacity of the human spirit and the effects of the ongoing climate crisis.

But this is no bleak documentary: Manatad’s feature-length debut is frequently heartbreaking yet buoyed by human absurdity, whimsy and understated humour. These touches make Whether The Weather Is Fine delicately spellbinding.

Manatad opens with a shot of clear skies, before descending on Tacloban’s textured rubble. Amid gossip of another stronger storm approaching, Miguel (played by Daniel Padilla), his mother Norma (Charo Santos-Concio) and his girlfriend Andrea (Rans Rifol) all plan to leave the island by trekking to the rescue boat bound for Manila. Norma, however, insists on finding Miguel’s missing dad, so she ventures out on her own and promises to meet the couple at the docks.

The unexpected casting of its lead trio is one of the film’s pleasant surprises. Padilla, a leading fixture in Pinoy rom-coms, plays Miguel with both fragility and intensity. Rifol breathes charm into the bristly and single-minded Andrea, her onscreen magnetism coming into relief when she breaks into a rendition of Kanteen’s cheeky Visayan pop tune ‘Gi-Fingers’. Most captivating is Santos-Concio’s turn as Norma. Concio, a retired TV network exec and primetime drama host, injects into the tough matriarch a quiet strength – though it’s just as entertaining to hear her spew Waray invectives.

Whether The Weather Is Fine movie review Kun Maupay Man It Panahon
Charo Santos-Concio in ‘Whether The Weather Is Fine’. Credit: Rediance Films

Whether The Weather Is Fine’s dialogue is sparse but pointed, many great expositions about the characters unfolding sans chatter. Manatad, Giancarlo Abrahan V, and Jérémie Dubois’ well-oiled script plays out in a stark visual landscape that’s testament to the diligence of production designer Whammy Alcazaren. Inside, candle-lit muddy hovels make do as temporary shelters. Outdoors, Tacloban’s streets are littered with corpses sandwiched between debris. And by its shores, there are more dead bodies stuffed into refrigerators that double as makeshift caskets. Manatad shot the sprawling feature in over six locations, with hundreds of billed extras, and a handful of indie film veteran cameos (Mercedes Cabral, Rollie Innocencio) to support the leads.

The fictional characters that colour Manatad’s Tacloban parallel real-life groups of people: There are religious zealots peddling hope; packs of enterprising children hustling for food and supplies; overwhelmed medical and military personnel trying to keep up with disaster response; swathes of people queuing for slowly trickling aid; and VIPs swiftly receiving preferential treatment.

Whether The Weather Is Fine movie review Kun Maupay Man It Panahon
Daniel Padilla in ‘Whether The Weather Is Fine’. Credit: Rediance Films

A sense of menace hangs over the film, offset by brief moments of levity (an embarrassing boner, a humorously crude tattoo, the futility of using an umbrella). Andrew Florentino punches through extended periods of silence with a frenetic and buoyant musical score. Stirring tracks like Asin’s ‘Himig Ng Pag-Ibig’ add heartrending depth to already emotional scenes.

Though at times plodding, Whether The Weather Is Fine is also unpredictable – one of its most inviting elements. Manatad indulges in a surreal third act that – without giving too much away – somehow manages to feel both like a bizarre dream sequence and a twisted fairytale ending that the characters and its audience need. It’s a fitting conclusion to an atypical disaster film by an insightful storyteller.

Details

  • Director: Carlo Francisco Manatad
  • Starring: Charo Santos-Concio, Daniel Padilla, Rans Rifol
  • Release date: February 9 on KTX, iWantTFC, and Upstream

The post ‘Whether The Weather Is Fine’ review: a heart-rending disaster drama with a surreal bent appeared first on NME.


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