LAAPFF 2021: Islands Review


If you ask people what their greatest fear is, most of them would give you one-dimensional answers like their phobias or whatnot. Yet, if you dig deep enough, people will say their greatest fear is dying alone. We are social people by nature, whether we admit it or not. Besides, if COVID-19 has told us anything, it’s that we need companionship more than ever. However, what happens when you start to lose people you rely on for companionship? That’s the premise of Martin Edralin’s fantastic family drama, Islands

Islands follows Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas), a lonely, middle-aged Filipino custodian at a Canadian university who lives with his elderly parents. When his mother passes away and his father becomes ill, he quits his job to tend to him instead of hiring a caretaker. Soon after, he relents and calls his cousin Marisol (Sheila Lotuaco) to help look after his dad (Esteban Comilang).

As a Filipino, I can tell you that Filipino families are as tight-knit as you would expect. So when one of us is in need, the entire family rallies behind them to help them overcome their troubles. Unfortunately for Joshua, he’s too timid of a person to ask for help at first. It’s at that point where Islands becomes a character study about how one individual can help inspire change. In this case, it’s Marisol who helps Joshua out of his shell. While most films would try to eliminate his social anxiety disorder, Islands is authentic with how it portrays people like Joshua (he even admits that his shy personality is something that he can change easily). 

Islands is an oddly bittersweet film that doesn’t provide any sentimental solutions to Joshua’s crippling fears and anxiety.

Unfortunately, as with most socially awkward men, any form of kindness from the opposite sex could be misconstrued as a form of flirting. Of course, this becomes utterly awkward for both Joshua and Marisol since they’re, you know… Cousins. Yet, this delicate situation between the two ultimately emphasizes how connecting with other people is the driving force in our lives. As I said, no one wants to die alone.

Also, realize that while the words “confesses his love to his cousin” may put Joshua in a creepy light, that’s not the case. Edralin’s honest and deft hand portrays Joshua in an unwinnable situation. Joshua is afraid of opening up to the world and having it reject him. Not to mention, he’s living in a country that isn’t his own with family members that are almost gone. Thus, he’s sticking to people with who he feels the most comfortable. First, it was his parents, and now it’s Marisol. It may sound creepy, but it’s just human nature.

All of this would be a disaster, though, if it weren’t for the subtle performance by Rogelio Balagtas. He’s never been an actor before, but wouldn’t tell from his performance. Not only does he show you that he’s living in a self-inflicted prison, but he does it in such a touching and melancholy way.

Overall, Islands is an oddly bittersweet film that doesn’t provide any sentimental solutions to Joshua’s crippling fears and anxiety. In the end, one begins to realize that Islands isn’t a downer but an uplifting flick. Joshua’s security blankets are gone, but his life ends up on a more hopeful note. The positive message is subtle, but sometimes that’s all one needs to get through this crazy life.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Facebook Comments