Nov 13, 2023
Gezelle Jean Dacillo, Stefanie Cartoneros, Claire Contesa
NEW TO UK FILM REVIEW
Critics Chris Olson and Brian Penn host UK Film Club - a new film podcast covering all film types. From blockbusters to old favourites and even indie & shorts.
Short film, Wala or to give it its English language title, Nothing is a Philippines based production from film-maker, Neo Bryce. In this, the latest in an ever increasing line of projects from the writer and director, Bryce has decided to strip his story back to the very basics, leaning heavily on the ennui suffered by the modern generation to create a film which offers a whole lot of Nothing to the viewer.
June (Dacillo) is one such sufferer of the modern generation, who from her life and viewpoint in the Philippines, shows that it’s not just us in the West who have a monopoly on opting out and feeling sorry for ourselves as the cost of living crisis bites hard, the job market sees the bottom fall out of it, and the online dating scene preys on our insecurities to seemingly prove that we are so helplessly inadequate that we can never be loved.
After a short introduction where June appears to at least have a few friends around her to have fun with, she nevertheless doesn’t seem to engage fully and in fact she may only have been invited along as a courtesy anyway. Flatmate Megan (Cartoneros) doesn’t help any, offering her life as a counterpoint to June’s as she jets off on holiday to have fun in the sun and chase down any tail she can get her hands on, preferably foreign in nature if she can find it. Left home alone, June only has herself for company as she lazily trawls through picture after picture of potential dates who she has already decided are out of her league and wastes her time on interview after interview with no actual job offer ever on the cards.
Bryce takes the opportunity during these scenes to fully allow his theme of nothingness to meander on through to the audience. Despite the idea that June supposedly keeps trying, in front of the camera she barely does anything at all. There is extended shot after extended shot of nothing happening, from an almost exclusively static camera, where June is in the kitchen or the hallway, lying on the bed or on the floor, almost always attached to a screen. One such scene lasts for a full three minutes, accounting for nearly ten percent of the entire runtime, but is in itself only one in a succession of very similar scenes which constitute the film.
There are a couple of diversions along the way in the form of dream sequences where June places herself within the plot of an exciting lifestyle, but rather than enhancing the overall feel of Wala, they instead serve to remind us just how boring the actual film we’re watching really is. While Bryce certainly has an attention to his craft and has gone all out to create a feeling of non-movement throughout the film to express his idea, what the bottom line comes down to is, if you’re going to create your film around the theme of Nothing and base all of your scenes around nothing happening then you shouldn’t be surprised when your film turns out to be about nothing and ultimately means nothing.