As Citizen Jake, Atom delivers in the title role.

The anger of Jake Herrera
Pablo A. Tariman (The Philippine Star) - March 17, 2018 - 12:00am

Film review: Citizen Jake

MANILA, Philippines — Shot in Baguio City which was once the setting of his beautifully crafted Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising, Mike de Leon’s Citizen Jake has the feel of an autobiographical film.

It takes a very personalized view of people and events as it examines journalist Jake Herrera’s relationship with his father, with his brother, with his girlfriend, with his Baguio katiwala and in the process, reveals his hatred for the Martial Law regime and its administrators. The film names the dictator’s family and always, they figure in angry dialogues between him and his father.

Atom Araullo with director Mike de Leon (second from left) and co-stars Richard Quan and Ruby Ruiz. 

Jake is a senator’s son and he quit as journalist when his father figured in the elections. Now, he is back to be a blogger with a cause and the film gives him that power to change the world as it were. As it is, he is restless about the many state of things in his family and the state of politics in his milieu.

But discovering the labyrinth of conspiracy in the death of a highland student, the character is at once shocked and confused, his courage starts to wane and at one time thinks of escape with his girlfriend.

Indeed, Citizen Jake is an angry film from beginning to end and at one point, you get uncomfortable when the character can’t get out of his angry zone.

All throughout the film, there is constant pressure to pursue this anger. But when you are an outsider looking in, you can’t possibly be forever involved without reaching the point of discomfort. Because when you do something out of anger, some rays of clarity and focus are sacrificed, and you leave the theater asking why Citizen Jake carries such a burden when he can confront his concerns head on and not with eyes bristling with hatred and finally with a barrel of the gun.

It is the film’s violent end that gives it a touch of emotional release and a sense of agonizing outrage.

That stated, the UP-Film Center advance screening was doubly memorable with the electrifying performance of Cherie Gil (as Patricia Medina), Nonie Buencamino (as The Judge), Teroy Guzman (as Jacobo Herrera Sr.) Luis Alandy (as Jonie), Gabby Eigenmann as Roxie Herrera) and Lou Veloso as the campus devil advocate.

Cherie Gil gives a savagely electrifying performance as Patricia Medina

The melancholy music of Nonong Buencamino absolutely defines the strange relationship between father and son, and gives the film some of its poignant moments. It also gives the film a good breather from angry characters.

As for Atom Araullo as the titular character in Citizen Jake, the sure thing is that he doesn’t disappoint. As the film unfolds, you can see he has the making of a natural actor. Interacting with his father (Teroy) and Jonie (Luis), Atom’s Jake has lambent fire and raw emotion all of which he can tap when a situation calls for it. In more ways than one, he delivers as Citizen Jake. He can evolve into a good actor given chances to appear in more film assignments.

Strangely after more than two hours of viewing, one sees the private person in this film, more than the filmmaker. The angry tone doesn’t dissipate and when it becomes a recurring scene, you wonder where all that anger comes from.

On the whole, you cannot deny Citizen Jake is a powerful film, but not necessarily an edifying one. You expect anger to metamorphose into something redeeming but it didn’t. Even as the film has an array of good actors to give it an unforgettable stamp.

But it is vintage Mike de Leon film with its angry outlook and savage view of kins he couldn’t stand. Moreover, the film values friendship and patriotism for what it is. But then the traumatic life of his mother puts him in constant rebellious mode.

Citizen Jake is a very personal view of The System as it savagely devours The Governed. With this outlook, direk Mike emerges a very relevant filmmaker for all ages.

Citizen Jake will have another screening on March 23 at the UP-Film Center.

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