Let’s Talk About How Paglisan Delivered A Unique Experience From Philippine Animation

This is no Pixar movie, but that's what makes it better.

Filipino animated movies are a dime in a dozen in local cinema so one this unique that tackles an all too relevant subject matter warrants a viewing.

Most of us have come to see Philippine cinema as churning out mostly comedies, romance, action, or a mix of those three. From time to time though, there are local movies that change the formula in some way or tackle topics and styles rarely seen in most local movies and Paglisan is
one of those movies. Paglisan is an animated musical that originally premiered during the 2018 Cinema One Originals film festival but was recently uploaded to Cinema One’s YouTube channel to watch for free.

The movie follows Crisanto (Ian Veneracion) and Dolores (Eula Valdez), a middle-aged couple living in Manila. Crisanto is a former musical theater actor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and this diagnosis tests his relationship with Dolores, a former musical theater actor as well who is struggling with depression. The two of them now must try to mend a breaking relationship that is made worse with fading memories.

Mental health is a serious subject matter that until recently was rarely featured in pop culture or was mischaracterized but Paglisan handles that topic well. The mental health problems that both characters are facing aren’t just there for plot purposes but are weaved into their lives that make it feel personal and relatable instead of stereotypical. The Alzheimer’s disease that Crisanto is struggling with affects his memory which makes it hard for him to remember things which in turn affect his relationships and well-being. Dolores’ struggle with depression makes it hard for her to take care of her husband at times and pulls her down in the process. Both of them have their struggles to deal with and the movie treats their journey with maturity and respect instead of the pitfalls that pop culture tends to portray people with mental illness. This isn’t a grand journey but a personal one between two people who love each other but sometimes find it hard to do so.

Their story is given more heart by the standout performances of Ian Veneracion and Eula Valdez. They absolutely carry this film and have amazing chemistry with one another. Despite it being animated, it feels like both of them are in the room together talking to one
another. Ian brings this world-weariness to Crisanto while Eula brings a crass-like sense of humor to Dolores that gives them dimension. Their voices bring a sense of love, warmth, pain, and loss to the characters that make this movie all the better. They really brought their characters to life.

As for what makes this movie stand out from the rest, the animation is done in a 2-D style that makes the film look like a mix between watercolor painting and sketchbook. Paglisan in motion looks like its moving frame-by-frame which gives it a mature children’s book vibe.

This isn’t a big-budget Pixar movie but it’s simple animation and eye-catching style gives the movie a unique charm to it. Despite the simple budget, the movie manages to effectively use its art style and animation to help accentuate what the Crisanto and Dolores are going through.

Sometimes, the characters lose their color and are just left with their outlines which could suggest that they are losing themselves. In a few scenes, the film changes the background to reflect the mental
state of the characters.

The most surprising aspect of Paglisan is that it’s part musical and it is implemented well. There are only a few songs in this movie but the ones that are in are great and help elaborate on what the characters are thinking and going through. Just as with their speaking voices, Ian and Eula’s singing voices are amazing and bring the emotion that drives home the message of the songs they sing.

During most scenes, there isn’t a score being played so the focus is given on the conversations between Crisanso and Dolores which makes them even more personal. Music though still plays an important part in this movie as both characters used to work in musical theater and the stage is used as a symbolism for their struggles as Crisanto has a hard time finding the right words on stage and Dolores imagines herself on an empty stage from time-to- time which represents her depressive episodes.

Animation is a popular movie genre both here and abroad yet rarely do we have locally made animated movies. This could be because there’s a lack of interest from major local studios to produce animated movies or that the local animation industry doesn’t get the support it needs. It
seems that it takes years just for a locally made animated movie to come out and it doesn’t get that much attention when released. Paglisan came and went in 2018 but with it being available
on YouTube, there is now a chance for more people to see this unique gem. This isn’t an animated movie for kids, but a mature tale of love and loss.

Don’t expect to see action here (if action is what you’re looking for though, try watching RPG Metanoia, a Filipino 3-D animated movie released back in 2010 that follows a group of kids trying to stop an evil virus in the video game they play), instead this movie musical is an emotional, heartwarming, and even sad story.

A unique animation style, excellent voice work, and a touching story help make Paglisan a good choice for those wanting a different experience from Philippine cinema.