By Heinrich Domingo
Mercury is Mine challenges the viewers to mock and question their beliefs on American superiority. It is an intellectual critique on the long-held xenocentrism of Filipinos. Sadly, the audience has to suffer a bumpy ride before achieving a clear conclusion. They have to wince at times as some sequences go to a point of absurdity.
At last, Jason Paul Laxamana retires from doing cheesy romcom films this year and creates a piece that is deep and philosophical. After Love is Blind and Ang Taba Ko Kasi, he redeems himself from this well-thought story. An American teen named Mercury (Bret Jackson) met an accident and ended up in a small eatery on the foot of Mt. Arayat. The owner, a reserved strict local woman (Pokwang) accepted him in exchange of being a waiter. The film tells the story on the Philippine society’s craze for Americans – how we adore their blond hair and light skin while robbing them off of their last penny.
Mercury is Mine’s story tackles the seldom discussed relationship of Filipinos and Americans. Its use of humor to criticize our adoration for the colonizer is new and effective. Instead of the typical grim and angry depiction of Filipino resistance, the film uses dark comedy to tell the public that power is held by them. Using westerners as standard of the concept of beauty is over. Now is the moment that we turn the table and reclaim what is truly ours.
As much as the film is commendable for offering a fresh take, the journey towards the gist of the plot is not smooth sailing. There were instances when characters act beyond rationality and circumstances. Some no longer play within the bounds of reality. It is true that to emphasize the film’s message is to show American greediness vis-à-vis the opportunistic tendencies of Filipinos. Yet, it was absurd for the male protagonist to follow the trail of Mt. Arayat for self-discovery then go home with a chest full of gold. It is equally absurd how the female character would then ask a stranger she treated as son to impregnate her daughter, have sex with her, and steal his gold.
Thanks to the brilliant cinematography, flaws of the script are often times forgivable. The consistent visual treatment stands above the rest of Cinemalaya 2016 feature-length movies. Although Jackson and Pokwang’s acting might not be superb, their performance shows that they best fit the characters.
From Kapampangan cuisine to xenocentrism, Mercury is Mine is a mouthful of ideas and subplots. It takes the audience into a long and winding road. But disregard the minor flaws and look into the essence of its story, you will find a narrative that is fresh and revolutionary.