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An Award Winning British-Filipino Movie-Metro Manila

Updated on August 19, 2015
chateaudumer profile image

One of the most entertaining, well directed and acted Filipino movie, I have seen for quite some time.

The Bar Scene


My Personal Review

I am not an avid movie goer, but just the other day, I rented a movie because I heard so many good reviews about the above film. In addition, the title attracted my attention having resided in Metro Manila for a number of years during my college years.

The movie was advertised as a crime drama and thriller. However, the first hour of the movie was no thriller at all. It was almost like a love story of a poor couple with two young kids from Northern Philippines who went to Manila for a better life. It was only 45 minutes before the end of the movie when the movie fulfilled its label as a crime drama and thriller

The opening scenes in the movie with the Ifugao Rice terraces in Banaue was mesmerizing and beautiful. It makes me feel like visiting the place again. I was in Banaue in 1970.

As the movie progresses the scenes of the poverty and traffic congestion in Manila was filmed so realistically even including the smog from exhaust of thousands of vehicles including Jeepneys, tricycles, buses and cars of all kinds , The movie was filmed entirely in the Philippines, mostly in Manila. This has save thousands of British pounds for movie director and producer Englishman Sean Ellis.

As a Filipino-American, the movie brings me some nostalgia even though some of the scenes were filmed in a neighborhood, I will never visit even in broad day light.

The movie starts with farmer Oscar (played by Jake Macapagal) and his wife, Mai (played by Althea Vega), unable to make a living on rice fields of Banaue Province in the Philippines. decided to migrate to Manila to find work, tagging along their two young children . They obtained a ride on a cramped produce and vegetable truck. Immediately after arriving in the city, they encounter a real estate swindler who rented them a house that is government owned. They were forced to live in the streets for a while and witnessed a kidnapping episode.

Later on the story, Oscar was able to move his family to a slum outside of town. After searching for a job for quite sometime, he was so glad to finally get a modestly paying job as an armored car driver. Mai on the other hand finds work in a bar where she’s routinely exploited and harassed by the male clientele. The manager of the Bar is Charlie( played by Angelina Kapati), a masculine woman, who seems sympathetic to Mai needs for money...

Oscar learned very fast of the ways of downtown, or “metro” Manila, after being taught by his driving partner, Ong (played by John Arcilla). Arcilla's acting ability was fantastic and superb.

The movie, Metro Manila offers a realistic view of a crowded and chaotic place where Oscar and Mai struggle against poverty and indifference. Manila is so unforgiving, and their poverty is so desperate. It is no surprise that when the Ramires Family seem to get a happy welcome to the city, their story turns up to a sad and,deadly ending. Watch the movie for a twist in the end.

Interview with Producer and DirectorSean Ellis

Personal Recommendation

I recommend this movie to all especially to those who enjoys a love story with a twist at the end. The movie is in Filipino (tagalog) with English subtitles. Since I understandTagalog there was no need for me to look at at subtitles which was hard to read because it was in a small font on my TV screen. Otherwise I enjoyed the movie very much. It was worth more than the $4.99 rental fee that I paid to Comcast Movie in Demand-My Internet and Cable movie Provider.

The film is unrated. It contains profanity, violence, smoking, adult themes and brief nudity, The running time is 115 minutes. It is available through Amazon Google Play, YouTube and Sony Entertainment Network. Metro Manila is 2013 British-Filipino independently produced crime drama film directed by Sean Ellis. Ellis also co-produced and co-wrote the film. The film was selected as the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.

Metro Manila had its International premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on 20 January 2013. It was also released on 17 July 2013 in France, 28 August 2013 in Belgium, 29 August 2013 in the Netherlands, and 20 September 2013 in the UK.

Metro Manila had its Philippine premiere on October 9, 2013. It is now available in Comcast Movie in Demand under Indie and Foreign Films category. The two day rental is $4.99 here in Northern California,

An Oscar Entry-Interviews of the Filipino Actors/Actresses

Other Reviews-From the Washington Post

Perhaps inevitably, the complications that ensue in “Metro Manila” begin to look a little contrived and exaggerated. But Ellis has nonetheless created an absorbing, poignant portrait of contemporary life in the Philippines, here pessimistically depicted as a place of cruelty and greed, but also courageous striving. And he’s enlisted a superior group of actors to ground his sometimes schematic story in unguarded sincerity. Macapagal and Arcilla are both solemn and attractive as a young couple the audience never hesitates to root for, and Arcilla handles his character’s own complexities with talky, charismatic flair.

“Metro Manila,” finally, is a sobering portrayal, not just of the abuse of power, but the abuse of hope, which might be even more unforgivable. As Mai tells Oscar at one point, “sometimes the only thing left to hang on to is the blade of the knife.” It cuts even deeper when there’s another human being holding the handle.

Sean Ellis Talks about His Award Winning Movie

Accolades and Awards

Metro Manila was re-released with special screenings to raise money for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda that had hit the Philippines and killed close to 6000 people. Its British director, Sean Ellis said: "The people of the Philippines were tremendously supportive during the making of Metro Manila, and it's only right that we should now use the film to raise money to help the victims of this terrible disaster."

Rotten Tomatoes lists a rating of 100% based on 23 reviews as of June 2014.

After winning the Hamburg Film Critic Award at the 2013 Filmfest Hamburg, the jury said of the film: “The themes of our times are what define this film: rural exodus and impoverishment, exploitation and poverty in the Moloch of overcrowded metropolises. Director Sean Ellis filmed this story in a language that is foreign to him - and yet still always manages to hit the right tone. He is emotional, yet never impassioned; poetic, yet never tawdry; raw without any hint of cynicism. A social drama that becomes a thriller, breathless and unstoppable. “Metro Manila” deserves to be seen by many. This film belongs in the cinema. .

For a complete list of 28 award nominations and ten awards won see the reference below.

The Hold-Up Scene


Metro Manila-The Award Winning Film

Have you Seen this Movie? Did You Like IT?

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Another Review-Telegraph.CO.UK

Metro Manila is so spellbound by its setting that it is a good hour before we discover what kind of film it is going to be. It begins as a swirling drama of survival in the Filipino capital — but then suddenly it slips off down an alleyway, only to emerge a scrupulously engineered, Christopher Nolan-ish crime thriller.

On paper, that sounds awkward: in fact, it’s an entirely logical reflection of the experience of anyone who has ever taken on a city and won. Early in the film, Manila is an inscrutable tangle of bodies and streets, but it gradually takes on the shape of a puzzle that is waiting to be solved. At stake are the life-changing contents of a missing safety deposit box, and a changed life is the reason Oscar Ramirez has come to Manila.

Oscar (Jake Macapagal) is a penniless rice farmer who brings his young family to this city of close to 12 million souls in search of work and food. Slum landlords and brutal employers take an almost overwhelming toll, particularly when Oscar’s pretty wife Mai (Althea Vega) takes a job in a mouldering go-go bar.

But while people grind them down, the very buildings seem to be willing them on: “God bless”, reads the banner above the telephone box where Oscar arranges a job interview. That interview leads to work at an armoured truck company, a friendship with his genial co-worker Ong (John Arcilla), and eventually knowledge of that safety deposit box, and what it will take to recover it.

Oscar tell his new boss a joke is crisply written and beautifully performed. Moments like that can give you dangerously high hopes for a film, and Metro Manila amply meets them.


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    Post Comment

    • chateaudumer profile imageAUTHOR

      David B Katague 

      4 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

      It was not advertised in the US movie market, that is why a lot of US residents have not heard of this award-winning film

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never heard of it...thanks for the review.


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