'Otlum' review: Brief and witless

William Shakespeare once wrote that “brevity is the soul of wit.”

Well, it’s pretty certain that director Joven Tan just doesn’t have any more material to work with to force Otlum to clock beyond just a little bit over than an hour.

Pearly white face powder

Otlum is just brief. It isn’t witty. It also isn’t very soulful.

However, it is however full of souls, the ones that are fond of pearly white face powder and tunics straight out of a detergent commercial. One’s a boy that appears out of nowhere, mostly accompanied by a loud noise straight out of the scorer’s trusty folder of standard horror sound effects.

One’s played by Pen Medina who is probably wondering how he ended up as a ghost in a Joven Tan movie when he has played far more interesting villains in films directed by Ishmael Bernal, Lino Brocka, Peque Gallaga and Marilou Diaz-Abaya.

One was alive before until he killed himself after discovering that the bunch of idiots he thought were his friends weren’t really his friends.

Despite the brevity, Otlum still feels staggered. Tan crowds the movie with scenes that are aimless and unenjoyable. In fact, it takes him around a third of the film’s running time to set up his narrative which is essentially just about the aforementioned idiots who are making fun of boy who desperately wants to be part of their exclusive group.

Lazy trappings

Tan, who a few months ago released another lousy movie called Petmalu, essentially repeats the routine of aping fads, making his teenage characters mouth popular colloquialisms such as “hashtag something” or “g” to make them resemble the youth of today. 

Those lazy trappings reveal not just how totally obsolete those characters are but also how lousily motivated they are. There just isn’t a single character in Otlum worth rooting for.

Tan could’ve easily just relied on silliness and humor, which are the elements that made the other lousy movie he released a few months ago entitled Wander Bra a little bit more tolerable.

However, Otlum is just devoid of mirth and happiness.

It is almost as if Tan is oblivious to the fact that the entire premise of his film is absurd and is a treasure trove for some form of parody. Tan insists that there is some moral truth hiding beneath all the sloppiness, and while there are attempts to present sensational issues such as priests abusing their wards, they never rise beyond being superficial.

Even as a morality tale, the film fails miserably.

Regurgitated mess

Otlum is just a joke, a joke that had the whole world, or at least a part of the world that had to part with their hard-earned cash to watch this regurgitated mess, crying.  – Rappler.com


Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.