Review: 'ML' delivers more than just martial law violence

Nov 12, 2018
ml benedict mique 2018 movie review


When I watched ‘ML’ in Cinemalaya, a part of me felt like I don’t need to talk about it anymore because I was confident enough of the discussions this film will be having after its run. And it’s partly true, it was the second highest grosser from that festival and the audience really had encouraging words to say about it. 

ml benedict mique 2018 movie review

But I knew to myself I need to talk about it this time because of a nationwide release it’s currently having. This, and another Cinemalaya entry ‘Liway,’ are films that really pushed the envelope for something angry rather than pure narration. It is this level of angst that got me hooked throughout for both. However, ‘ML’ pushes for something scary, and it is effective at being one.

ml benedict mique 2018 movie review

Tony Labrusca plays a student who was assigned by his professor to write something about Martial Law. This research about this specific time in the Philippines will involve an interview with one of the participants from that era. Lucky for him, a man from his neighborhood was a former Metrocom officer (Eddie Garcia), and he was easily granted permission. Unlucky for him, this man has dementia and would often imagine himself as if it was the old days. 

The most plausible thing about ‘ML’ is that--in all its attempt to be as violent as possible--does not feel pretentious in execution. Director Benedict Mique made it clear that he is opting for something that is very serious, and you can feel how passionate he was in telling this story. Although the film would really engage for a couple of laughs in between dark moments (e.g.: one that involves a popular nightclub being mistaken as a meeting place of rebels), it is clear in following the promise of its premise. 

On the discussion of the film’s use of violence, a lot of people might have a concern about it being gratuitous. I was fortunate enough to hear the director’s defense even before I saw it, revealing that it’s all “exposition, not exploitation.” I carry those two words upon watching the movie and got a very terrifying portrait of a young man stripped out of his justice to redeem himself. 

ml benedict mique 2018 movie review

This is why the ending makes a harrowing arc for Labrusca’s character. Even with anger, he knows the limits of his morale. He knows he could kill the Metrocom officer that tortures him, yet he knows he couldn’t. On this scene alone, the film makes a statement. Violence does not beget violence. It’s the man that triggers it. It’s the very same man that we need to question and force to educate the horrors through films like this. 

'ML' is now showing in cinemas nationwide!


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