Film Review: Endo

I’m back. I don’t know how and I don’t know until when. Don’t ask; I break promises.

I’ve started enjoying films since I entered college. I’ve planned to write about the films I watch but to be honest, I don’t really think that I’m a natural writer—neither funny nor interesting, more often than not following the structure of writing and failing. But I decided to give it a try anyway because I feel like writing about films encapsulate their effect on me more.

(Disclaimer: I may not be a critic. I just want to write what I like or what I do not like about a film.)

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Screengrab from Lilok Pelikula.

So ‘Endo’, the 2007 film directed by Jade Francis Castro in his feature film debut. He would win a Gawad Urian for his screenplay in the film, and his future works would include the critically acclaimed and sleeper hit ‘Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot sa Remington (2010)’.

‘Endo’ tells the story of Leo, a school dropout and breadwinner who goes from one job to the other because he does not have security of tenure. The contractual worker meets Tanya, another contractual worker, and they fall in love.

The premise is basic for a narrative as worldly as romance. But if ‘Endo’ were a painting, it deserves the attention because its strongest feature is not the subject, but the background that does not feel insincere.

When Leo’s group of friends celebrate their endo (end of contract), the juxtaposition between reality and denial of it is revealing. No one got fired, just an end of contract, and the celebration (“painom ka naman”) conceals that the next day is another search for another job.

In the film, we see Leo jump from one job to the other. He is first some cashier or cook in a café, and then a sales boy at a mall’s department store, and then a dicer at a grocery.  We know Leo is tired with this monotonous life, and we feel tired also, because we know that there’s more to life than that.

So his escape is our escape too. He found one in Tanya, and we found our escape in the two of them. They are making ends meet, but when they pass love notes during work, or ride home together, or make love at a hotel room, we imagine a surreal world where the dullness is bearable, as long as love can counter it.

And the best thing about all of these is that the film does not come across as too ‘pilit’. ‘Endo’ does not present contractualization as a political agenda, but rather a backdrop that encompasses the lives of the characters in the film. We see their struggle, and from then, we can deduce what’s not right, what’s missing.

The story, written by the film’s director Castro with the award-winning Ricky Lee and Michiko Yamamoto, would not be as solid as it was in the audio-visual form had it not been for the grounded performances of its leads. Ina Feleo’s Tanya does not feel calculated; we get to admire her sensitivity and demeanor. Feleo was able to embody the character that fits perfectly with Leo, someone who is going to stand beside him instead of watching him do all the work. But most importantly, it was Jason Abalos’s film. Leo is not a happy-go-lucky guy, but he is not afraid to take risks. He is not perfect but he has signed himself up to the responsibility of providing for his family. He sidetracks his goals, falters at times—be it relationship or life goals—but he is perfectly redeemable. And it is because Abalos was able to portray well the middle class aspiration—full of dreams and uncertainty.

‘Endo’ is an essential viewing; it captures the times of the 2000s, its doubts, illusions and disillusions. Castro wrote it best when towards the end of the film, Leo, in probably Abalos’s Urian-winning scene, says to his loved one, “Ang pangit-pangit ng mundo. Pinagtyatiyagaan ko lang. Tapos dumating ka. Tapos ginising mo ko. Tapos sinabi mo, ba’t ako magtyatiyaga?”

Because either someday our escape would come along, or we would not have to escape at all.

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