Pretty much like the islands of Cuyo, Ploning is one quiet movie. A story of a young man in search for his past pegged at a 30-year old spinster named Ploning, who in turn, has her own story to tell. Around Ploning, are stories of a cripple mother, a dying father, a city girl who tries to look for her life being due in giving one, a hermit wife left by her husband, a strong-willed mother who, just like salt melts down in the rain, and a young boy, with his fragile memory lapses, weaves the entire plot. All set in a picturesque island somewhere in the Sulu Sea where Taiwanese fishermen would often illegally fare. Just like Cuyo, Ploning is a visual feast. An excusable indulgence, I would say, how can you possibly not put postcard worthy scenes if your location is such a place?
Ploning, the character as portrayed by Judy Ann Santos parallels with the first scenes of the mysterious 'Malena'- beautiful and quiet, making everyone ask and later on, pass judgments. Admittedly, in as much as you want to think Ploning is mysterious, it is a bit difficult to rub Judy Ann Santos (the star) off the character. Yet her being such impales you to your seat to be more curious about the entire story. She is crisp and fresh and unpolluted. Eugene Domingo who portrayed the cripple mother to the young Digo, outshone everyone with her poignant comic timing. Very controlled at her finest moment though it became a bit indulgent at the very end of the scene. Still, she already mastered in giving one an emotional roller coaster ride. Another noteworthy actor is the young Cedric Amit. He exuded innocence with a bit of guilt. A character of perfect young boy, curious and clingy, Amit's presence was apt to be put side by side with the named actors in the movie. Meryl Soriano's Alma is understated and sympathetic while Ces Quesada (as Nieves) is as 'natural' as the island itself.
It is commendable that the movie employed Cuyun-on almost half the time. And mixing it with Tagalog is not distracting at all. Admittedly, a few of the actors fell short in mastering the language but generally, they succeeded in pinching the Cuyun-on/Kiniray-a/Hiligaynon speaking audience's heart. It was a bit disturbing though that Ilonggo was inserted while Meryl Soriano showed only a hint of the intonation amidst the trite 'guid' suffixed to almost all of her sentences.
Together with the language, the story on traditions and customs abound the island are scattered in the segmented plot. Keeping it just above the surface, the ati-ati, the baile, the can of lychee tell so much of the people in such locality. For me, this was the director's (Garcia) finest moments. To tell such story, one has to experience it at least once in his life. To capture it in film, one has to live it.
'Ploning' is a breath of fresh air. A quiet movie which is intelligent and a bit indulgent. Practically, what this industry needs nowadays.