CATNIP (Philippines, 2012)
74 minutes, DCP, in Tagalog with English subtitles
Directed by: Kevin Dayrit
Starring: Lauren Young, Maxene Megalona, Rommel Luna
Liv (Lauren Young) and Cieca (Maxene Megalona) are the kind of teenage BFFs who hate each other, love each other, drive each other crazy, but balance each other perfectly. Liv is the wild one, always restlessly looking for something to do, picking fights, going on ridiculous missions, and inspiring men to chase after her. Cieca is the calm one, the perfect one, the one who makes good grades, and is constantly rolling her eyes. Liv loves binging on horror movies, Cieca covers her eyes and peers through her fingers, screaming at every spring-loaded cat. How surprised they’d be to know that they’re not just watching horror movies, but they’re living in one.
Writer-director Kevin Dayrit spent three years plotting CATNIP, and the result is a sneaky film that starts out as a female friendship flick before darkening into something much bloodier. That it has a dark side gets revealed fairly early, but what goes unsaid until later is just how dark things are going to become. While Cieca’s dad is absent, working in another city, he still provides plenty of money for his family and her homelife is stable and secure. Liv, on the other hand, lives with an explosive father (Rommel Luna) who constantly abuses her, both physically and emotionally. She’s his very own private punching bag. Drawn to Cieca’s peaceful home life, being able to hide at her friend’s house is the only thing that keeps Liv sane. But she’s brought her sickness with her into Cieca’s family, and it’s rotting all the good things Cieca had before Liv came along.
Shot in fragmented, stylized bursts of digital video, swapping film formats the way a long distance runner swaps socks, and using meticulously executed special effects to turn everyday life into a surreal emotional landscape, CATNIP is stylistically extreme. At first it feels like overkill, but soon it becomes clear that the inner life on display is more extreme than it looked and that no matter how many happy thoughts you think, sometimes there’s damage that can never be cured, sometimes it really is too late. Friendship doesn’t just heal you, it can also hurt you, occasionally to death.
Tuesday July 2, 1:00PM Walter Reade TheaterBuy Tickets