The issue of human trafficking has plagued society for a long time, as we are often reminded by news stories. These incidents can occur close to home, as shown in Angelo Reyes’ film about Tanya, a trafficking victim. The movie portrays this concept through a Filipino perspective, adding another dimension to the story.
“Groomed” review is part of the Submit Your Film Initiative
The movie starts with a worried mother arguing with her teenage daughter, Maria, about the messages she has been exchanging with Ricardo, a man in his 30s, through her phone. The tension between them is apparent as the mother speaks mostly in Filipino while the daughter responds in English, but when the situation escalates to cursing and physical violence, the gap between them becomes insurmountable. Maria leaves her house to meet Ricardo. Their relationship seems to be going smoothly at first, with Maria opening up to him about a traumatic experience she had with one of her mother’s boyfriends. However, things take a dark turn when he suggests that she have sex with a man for money as a means of “escaping”. Maria reluctantly agrees, but the experience ends up being traumatic for her in the most horrific way possible. To make matters worse, she realizes that this is just the beginning.
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In just 18 minutes, Angelo Reyes adeptly showcases the issue of human trafficking, delving into its origins and methods. The victims, typically young girls from troubled homes, are manipulated with false promises of love and coerced into prostitution as their only means of survival. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that Maria, the protagonist, has become desensitized to this horrific life, even accepting it as her norm.
The film ultimately has a positive ending, but its plot is filled with intense themes. Reyes also criticizes parents who neglect their children or do not know how to properly care for them, especially in the age of technology where there are potential dangers online. The main responsibility lies with the traffickers portrayed in the movie, but it would be interesting to explore their backgrounds and how they became involved in such activities. Additionally, more focus on the other woman in the story would add depth, and while the sexual assault adds to the drama, it may seem unrealistic in this context, despite being based on a true story. These issues may be due to the time constraints of Reyes’ 18-minute film, but they do not take away from its overall impact.
As Maria, Danielle Lyn does an excellent job portraying the complexities of a frustrated teenager and a victim in a challenging role. Similarly, Reyes excels as Ricardo, transitioning from a loving boyfriend to revealing his true character.
Robert H. Chapman’s cinematography is a bit too polished on occasion, but also captures the grittiness and suffocation of what we are watching with realism, while AJ’s editing results in a fast pace that suits the narrative style nicely. Evidently, Diaz did not want to get too brutal in his presentation, and the two aspects are definitely part of this approach.
“Groomed” is an accomplished short, that manages to highlight the particular phenomenon with realism and artistry.