Well-made films transport audiences to foreign worlds using themes and storytelling elements that make strange environments resonate despite their unfamiliarity. Filipino writer-director Ron Morales’ second feature, “Graceland,” dives into the underbelly of the complicated Manila crime world with a disturbing story of lies, intrigue and revenge that connects on a universal level despite its specific context. Austin’s Drafthouse Films is distributing the feature that played at Fantastic Fest last year.
Morales’ shaky camera and off-centered framing lend a jarring and naturalistic feel to the story of Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes), the exhausted and underappreciated personal assistant of congressman Manuel Changho (Menggie Cobarrubias). Early scenes illuminate that Marlon’s job extends beyond driving the congressman. He also helps cover up potentially damning secrets for his boss. An impoverished man of faith, Marlon appears to have little choice in his servitude. His wife lies in a hospital room in need of an organ transplant.
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