The title of Dwein Baltazar's sophomore feature film includes a small part of the brain not many people know. It worked under the premise that the hypothalamus, not the heart, is where the feeling of love originated scientifically.
In this mind-boggling film, there were four men of diverse personalities and pasts, and apparently they felt love for a single girl.
The four men searching for love were ukay-ukay salesman Caloy, widower shopkeeper Lando, hyperactive college student Alex and mute ex-convict Obeng. The singular apple of their eyes is the attractive and vivacious Aileen, the mysterious woman who seemed to fulfill their criteria for the ideal life partner.
As Aileen, Iana Bernardez exuded the seductive allure of a young Angel Aquino, only to realize after the film that she is indeed Angel Aquino's daughter in real life.
Nicco Manalo has that shy loser personality of Caloy down pat already. His interactions with co-employee Winston (Nestor Abrogena) were hilarious. Soliman Cruz as Lando painted a poignant picture of middle age loneliness. Dylan Ray Talon as Alex was a typical jerk young boyfriend, obsessed with his video games and gadgets. Scarred Anthony Falcon had no lines as the snatcher Obeng, but his scenes tended to be the most cinematically eloquent.
People familiar with downtown Manila will savor with familiarity the streets of Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, especially Claro M. Recto and Rizal Avenues where vibrant outdoor scenes were shot. Everyone knew those places where the various stories were set -- the second-hand clothing store, the general merchandise store, the city college, the dorm rooms, the LRT, the busy sidewalks, and dark alleys. These places were very much also characters of significance in this film.
"Hypothalamus" went home with four awards: 2nd Best Picture, Best Ensemble, Production Design and Musical Score. I can see how it has earned the Best Ensemble award. All the actors played their part so effectively as to make the whole narrative very engaging, despite some slow typically indie-film moments.
The film ends in a way that you are not completely sure of what happened in the preceding scenes. You will contemplate on the mystery of Aileen long after you've left the movie house. 8/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."