Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Wed Oct 2 2013
Ageing Filipino midwife Shaleha has not been able to give her husband a child, so she goes on a mission to find him a new, fertile wife. When they stumble across a nubile young beauty whose dowry they can afford, he looks fantastically pleased. Shaleha, though, is distraught: she is a simple, kind woman whose love for her husband is giving and unselfish, and Nora Aunor’s restrained performance is heart-rending. A constant, underlying tension between the armed forces of the Philippines and the Islamic community is briefly alluded to, adding a further layer of unease.
But ‘Thy Womb’ isn’t just emotionally harrowing: within minutes we’re presented with a birth in graphic, unflinching detail, while a cow’s throat is later sliced open with a cleaver. Both scenes look suspiciously realistic. The spectacular landscapes provide a soothing counterpoint: the watery expanses and houses on stilts resemble a vast, sultry Venice. Director Brillante Mendoza divided Cannes audiences in 2009 with the stylish but violent ‘Kinatay’, but ‘Thy Womb’ combines his eye for bizarre detail and inventive camera angles with an unassuming yet poignant story.
Author: Kathryn Bromwich