Netflix just dropped a new Filipino movie this month which takes us to the distant lands of the Faroe Islands, a self-governing region tucked between Iceland and Norway consisting of steep cliffs, cozy coastlines, and breathtaking natural beauty. “A Faraway Land,” however, draws most of our attention away from this unfamiliar place and toward the people living there instead, particularly the Filipino women who have traded the topics for a life in the freezing archipelago with their Faroese husbands.
The film, created by writer-director Veronica B. Velasco, introduces to us Filipino journalist Nico Mendoza (Paolo Contis) who flies to the Faroe Islands to do a documentary on Mahjoy Garðalið (pronounced as “Garaloy”) (Yen Santos) who has successfully put up a food catering business. In the few days he’s spent trailing her, Nico has learned all about her work schedule, her family, and her daily routines. The chemistry between Nico and Mahjoy is unmistakable; you could see how Nico’s Pinoy humor provided Mahjoy that much-needed change of pace, considering how she struggles with the cultural difference between her and her husband, Sigmund.
It was easy to guess that Nico and Mahjoy would eventually develop feelings for one another, and it’s unfortunate to witness them act upon their forbidden attraction even after Mahjoy had been adamant about not betraying Sigmund and their daughter, Lena, just to “flirt” with someone else. Perhaps this conflict would have been more deeply felt by audiences had they kept their affection unsaid and merely embraced the romantic tension to communicate their hidden desires.
Naturally, Mahjoy eventually realizes that what they did was wrong and thus shuts down Nico’s invitation to be with him and come home to the Philippines. It was shocking for him to even suggest that, to hopefully sway Mahjoy to leave the life she worked so hard to build in the Faroe Islands and her family for a whirlwind romance. But it’s interesting what Mahjoy says in defense of her abject refusal, which is also what she says about most of her decisions throughout the movie: “Because I have no choice.”
“A Faraway Land” teaches us a lot of things about an OFW’s sacrifices, about devotion to family, and about living in the moment, but it teaches us mostly about having the freedom to choose your own path. On one hand, Nico proves to us that we should follow our hearts every moment we are alive so that we won’t have any regrets. On the other hand, Mahjoy shows us that such self-centered decisions should never be done at the expense of other people even if her happiness is on the line.
Each person will have their own beliefs regarding the subject and whichever it is you stand for will most likely affect how you’ll take the movie’s ending. All in all, “A Faraway Land” is heartfelt and picturesque at best, but fails to draw empathy for the character’s choices amid a predictable story.
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Note: All opinions expressed by this author do not reflect the opinions of When In Manila.
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