‘Finding Agnes’ review: unfussy Filipino drama buried by the Netflix algorithm

You won't find Marla Ancheta's charming debut in the Top 10, but indie fans should seek it out

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    One of the frustrating things about Netflix is that its catalogue-building approach to content can sometimes lean towards quantity over quality. If subscribers come across something they like once a week, Netflix hopes, they’ll keep coming back for more. But even if your feed is cluttered with similarly-styled action movies and cheaply-bought studio fare, the streamer’s bulk-buying ethos also allows for low-budget dramas to thrive – as long as you’re willing to browse a bit further.

    This week sees the release of a film that few will spot in their feeds. Finding Agnes stars Brix Rivero (Jelson Bay, a sitcom star in his native Phillipines) as a successful businessman who one day finds his estranged mother sitting in his office. She’s come to apologise for abandoning him 30 years earlier, and hopes she might get to know her son.

    Later, Brix travels to Morocco where he meets his adopted sister, Cathy (Sue Ramirez), who works in the B&B his mother built up. Together, they go on a journey of discovery, as they try to figure out where they came from, and what they need to learn so they can progress their lives. She lacks direction due to a broken heart, while he lacks interest in other people, so consumed he is with his work.

    This is a simple tale, told in a simple way. The production is occasionally classy, but mostly competent. The script is uninspired, delivered by a likeable yet limited cast (it does often seem as though they’re trying to remember what to do or say next). The thing is, it’s a nice film. It’s about people getting to know each other, themselves, and the families from whence they came. To denigrate anyone involved doesn’t seem fair. It does precisely what it sets out to do. When the leads do get down to in-depth discussions, they begin to strike up a bit of chemistry, aided by a delicate and effective score.

    Elsewhere, first-time director Marla Ancheta’s visuals are unfussy and her camera moves minimal. Mostly, she creates a pleasant frame and leaves the actors to do their thing. For some, the often wooden acting might be too hard to get past, but those who take the time to find Agnes – far from the ‘Top 10’ trending bar on their Netflix homepage – may be pleasantly surprised.

    Details

    • Director: Marla Ancheta
    • Starring: Jelson Bay, Sue Ramirez, Sandy Andolong
    • Release date: November 30 (Netflix)
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