19th Nov2020

‘Watch List’ VOD Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Arthur Acuña, Bernard Carritero, Alessandra de Rossi, Jake Macapagal | Written by Ben Rekhi, Rona Lean Sales | Directed by Ben Rekhi

The Philippine Drug War is a real thing and it takes centre stage in this movie right from the very beginning. We see actual clips of President Rodrigo Duterte declare the war on drugs, a move maybe surprisingly, that had the backing of a high percentage of the population in the Philippines, and this is where Watch List injects itself.

We meet a family right in the centre of things when a husband is killed on the streets. The widowed mother of three then has to make some very tough decisions if she wants to find out the truth about her husband’s death, make sure it doesn’t happen to other people and support her children.

This is not an easy film to watch. The story is clearly a grim one to start with and when it involves people in and around drugs, sometimes with little choice in the matter, it becomes all that more difficult. You feel the pain the characters are feeling and the hopelessness that they have. They seem to have no escape from the nightmare they are in.

Of course, without good performances, none of this would be felt in that way but thankfully there are great performances by much if the cast, especially the lead woman Alessandra de Rossi. An experienced actress and it shows because we see and feel every emotion through her eyes alone. It’s a great part for her and she makes it her own. But she’s surround by other actors who are acting expertly too, even the younger members of the cast are putting on great performances.

Despite the grim tone of Watch List, director Ben Rekhi has made the Philippino streets look cinematically amazing. They still look dirty and claustrophobic but the cinematography is great and it’s easy to get lost in this world.

The film-makers choose not to hold back with the violence too. This all feels very real and therefore, truly shocking at times. There was a moment that even made me jump at pure shock because I jst didn’t see it coming and then when it did I was just left a bit open-mouthed. The grittiness of it all means that the shock value never really disappears. Deaths are quick, nasty and hard-hitting.

By the time the ending comes around you’ll realise (if you somehow hadn’t before) that this is no Hollywood movie. There is a glimmer of hope in there somewhere but it’s difficult to see it and it’s hard not to have that depressing, hopelessness felling alongside the characters.

Watch List features a world that I cannot relate to at all. But the director and actors do such a good job that I can relate to the relationships and the emotions that the characters feel. I have seen little written about Watch List, and with so many films being released each year, it’s easy for some films to get lost in the shuffle. I hope Watch List finds its audience because it deserves it. It’s one of the most powerful and emotionally-driven drama’s of the year.

**** 4/5

Watch List is available on VOD now.

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