Cinemalaya Movie Review: Mercury is Mine

Mercury is Mine features a great performance by Pokwang and poses an interesting social commentary, but an uneven script prevents it from turning into a compelling frisky dark comedy that it aspires to be.

Carmen, a middle-aged cook, is about to close down her eatery at the foot of Mt. Arayat when a white American teenage boy named Mercury approaches her and begs for work in exchange of nothing but shelter.

Talent often comes from unlikely places, and I’m not talking about newcomer Bret Jackson.

Mercury is Mine offers a frisky dark comedy that isn’t afraid to be absurd.

The whole movie is carried by Pokwang, a comedienne who has proven that she has the dramatic chops to make every scene work, even when the rest of the movie doesn’t.

The tonal shifts disrupt the narrative, flipping between comedy and drama with a sprinkle of romance in between. The main problem is that in this character driven story, Mercury and Carmen suddenly flip motivations and personalities when its convenient for the plot.

Bret Jackson isn’t able to pull off his serious scenes that lend the movie its dark themes. His supposed mercurial nature isn’t anymore threatening than a hammy attempt at portraying unpredictable mood swings.

Pokwang saves the day, but it’s not quite clear what Carmen wants from Mercury – use him as a mascot, pak him as a substitute for Richard? or adopt him as a son? – but it’s certain that she wants to posses him in some way. Desire and maternal instincts mix together with icky results.

We know nothing about either of them apart from their neurosis. The movie is directionless, and piles on the absurdity for shock value.

It doesn’t help that the movie has a lot of ideas that it throws around – May-December romance, repressed desires, and child abuse. Mercury is Mine works better when it’s a social commentary on how Filipinos treat foreigners. While there are plenty of customers who idolize Mercury, others take advantage of him. This includes Carmen, who makes a ridiculous proposition in the end.

Mercury is Mine is entertaining thanks to the comedic timing and earnest performance of Pokwang. There’s a story here about two lost souls who long to escape their lives and start anew. However, they get lost in a meandering story of caricatures who don’t know what to do with each other.

My Rating: 5/10

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