Ronald Espinosa’s CineFilipino 2018 entry, “Excuse Me Po”, feels like it wants to tackle many things at once. When it does, it becomes a hodge-podge of confusing narratives crammed into one storyline. The film has heart, indeed, but its intentions don’t resonate well. Does it want us to understand the motivations of a scammer, or worse condone it? Is it a film that tackles poverty? Is it a film about filmmaking? The film for certain has a lot of ideas, but sadly, the structure doesn’t add everything up.
Hilda (Elizabeth Oropesa) is a 65-year-old lady who makes a living by begging and scamming people for money. Having been a bit player in movies when she was young, Hilda uses her limited acting experience to convince passersby to give her cash, coming up with different stories and lies to gain the sympathy (and money) of whoever is willing to listen. But when Hilda becomes viral on social media and people start recognizing her, she lays low. A team of filmmakers, however, pick up her story, and they decide to turn her life into a documentary.
“Excuse Me Po” touches the surface of the stories it wishes to tell, but it never fully immerses itself within those narratives. We see half-baked arcs of different characters which have potential if only the film had been brave enough to delve deeper into those storylines.
The arcs of the supporting characters are interesting: A “has-been” bold star who literally lost herself to the illusion of fame; a neighbor who turns out to be a drug dealer; an elderly man who treats his dog like his own child; and a scriptwriter struggling with domestic issues. These subplots have plenty to tell, but “Excuse Me Po” only brushes through them, never giving them a chance to cook through. The film plays it safe, only scratching the surface without being brave enough to take a risk.
Elizabeth Oropesa is the lifeforce of the film. She breathes sincerity to the film, enough to carry it through, but only until such a point. You believe her struggles, and you recognize her flaws. If she approached you on the streets, you’d most likely give in. Surrounded by some great talent, too—Matt Daclan and Chanel LaTorre, to name only a couple—she beholds the film with her presence and does not let up. One doesn’t get tired of watching her. I know I didn’t.
However, ultimately, “Excuse Me Po” feels premature. The movie just plays safe, and I wish it was braver in its storytelling. For a film whose screenplay is scatterbrain, Elizabeth Oropesa serves as its greatest commodity, the glue that keeps everything—somewhat—in order.
Excuse Me Po
2018 / Drama, Comedy / PH
Direction: Ronald Espinosa Batallones
Screenplay: Ronald Espinosa Batallones
Cast: Elizabeth Oropesa, Matt Daclan, Chanel LaTorre
“Excuse Me Po” is the story of Hilda, a 65-year-old Senior Citizen who makes a living out of begging inside and outside of the mall.