5 Best Movies to Watch From ANIMA

Staff & contributors

Third World Romance is what it says in the tin– it’s a love story that blooms in the rundown side of the capital of a developing country. The plot is familiar, especially for people familiar with Filipino rom coms, but writer-director Dwein Baltazar approaches this with a grounded approach. With fancy dinner dates substituted with shared packed rice meals and emotional apologies interrupted by their shifts in the grocery, Bree and Alvin carve out a love that still feels passionate, perhaps made even more so, as they navigate a city where they are disenfranchised. Charlie Dizon and Carlo Aquino’s excellent performances keep their characters’ struggles real, but also make their love feel joyful in spite of that.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Ana Abad-Santos, Archie Adamos, Carlo Aquino, Charlie Dizon, Donna Cariaga, Gardo Versoza, Iyah Mina, Jun Jun Quintana

Director: Dwein Ruedas Baltazar

Though only currently available on Prime Video Philippines, Carlo Francisco Manatad's critically acclaimed drama boasts the kind of directorial vision and technical brilliance that deservedly kept it on the international festival circuit throughout 2021 and 2022—and that deserves to be seen around the world. Through textured cinematography and sound design, and art direction that situates its story halfway between reality and a dazed state of mind, Whether the Weather Is Fine isn't so much a factual retelling of life after Typhoon Haiyan but a meditation on what home and freedom mean to those who no longer seem to have it.

Manatad's background in experimental short filmmaking shines through in how the film seems comprised of so many irregular parts, but the emotional through line is unmistakable. Three incredible performances—from Daniel Padilla, Charo Santos-Concio, and Rans Rifol—illustrate the different ways that people try to escape or cling to hope in the wake of devastation. It's the furthest thing from "resilience porn," as the different perspectives of these characters clash and inevitably push each other away. And while that might not sound like the film offers a constructive point of view on disaster management, its intense psychological focus feels like something we haven't seen on screen before.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Charo Santos-Concio, Daniel Padilla, Francis Magundayao, Johnny Manahan, Joji Alonso, Mercedes Cabral, Nico Antonio, Rans Rifol

Director: Carlo Francisco Manatad

In the years since Fan Girl's original release in the Philippines, its ultimate message and execution has become polarizing: is it enough that the film shows the corruption of a parasocial relationship into an abusive one, without offering much hope? Is its vision of justice actually constructive or disappointingly limited? No matter where you fall, it's exciting that a movie can stir up these kinds of questions through a bizarre dynamic between characters, in a place that's clearly set somewhere between reality and delusion. The narrative is circular and frustrating for a reason—a constant push and pull as the titular fan girl keeps getting drawn back into the celebrity's orbit—and the film only grows more disturbing with each repetition.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Bea Alonzo, Camille Penaverde, Charlie Dizon, Gie Onida, Micko Laurente, Milo Elmido Jr., Mina Cruz, Paulo Avelino, Sheenly Gener

Director: Antoinette Jadaone

Rating: PG-13

, 2023

If there are parts to Rookie's story that seem too easily resolved—for the sake of making this more of a feel-good movie—these shortcuts still serve a genuinely romantic central relationship that develops in the most organic way possible. Besides the school's stifling conservatism, there's nothing that really stands in the way of Ace and Jana's blossoming connection. By immediately advancing its depiction of queer love beyond the self-acceptance stage (where so many other films get stuck), Rookie is allowed to show us two girls in love and supporting each other, as the normal and beautiful thing it should be. It doesn't hurt either that the movie is pretty entertaining as a sports film, with just enough flash in its editing and sound design to sell the frantic energy of a game wherein you want to impress the person you have a crush on.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Agot Isidro, Aya Fernandez, Che Ramos, Mikoy Morales, Pat Tingjuy, Simon Ibarra

Director: Samantha Lee

Mae is a hopeless romantic looking for love and more clients for her custom t-shirts. After a meet-cute at the grocery store, she turns to an app called Missed Connections to find him. After they finally meet, Mae realizes he has a connection with someone else. Now determined to make him fall in love with her, she hires him to rebuild her website. As a rom-com, the comedy isn't particularly outstanding or noticeable. The romance, and Mae, are hard to root for, especially when her obsessions go too far, her slut-shaming goes unchecked, and it all lasts for 90% of the film without any real cathartic resolutions. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Chie Filomeno, JC Santos, Kelvin Miranda, Matet De Leon, Miles Ocampo

Director: Jelise Chung