Small Voices

An attractive young teacher instills the gift of education to the children of a remote village, and in the process learns to love them just as much as they love her. That is the premise of Small Voices, and it is every bit as sappy as it sounds. As hard as everybody tried to make this film sincere, all attempts failed. The film starts as Melinda (Alessandra de Rossi, Wretched Lives, Dog Food), a recent graduate, goes to work as a teacher in a small remote Filipino village. She is fresh, eager, and horrified at the conditions around her.

Her children are at the mercy of her parents, who often remove them from class to help in the fields. Melinda's supervisor, Mrs. Pantalan (Dexter Doria, Eva, Lason, Kay Adan, Tusong Twosome) sells frozen treats to the children for extra money, and seems more interested in her own well-being and the school's reputation than the education of the children. Melinda learns that there is a big contest with a cash prize given to the best school choir, and over Mrs. Pantalan's objections, she forms a choir with her students.

Along the way come the typical obstacles. Mrs. Pantalan is skeptical. Many of the parents see no point to education in the first place, so when their children join a choir they think of it as frivolous. Still, the children are cute, and Melinda is appealing. Nevertheless, de Rossi, as petty as this sounds, needs a shave. Small Voices trudges at a excruciatingly slow pace, going where everybody expects it to. Director Gil Portes (In the Bosom of the Enemy, Markova) co-wrote the script with Adolfo Alix Jr. (Yesterday Children) and Senedy Que stretch things out far too long and pile on every cliche they can. Things get especially bad at the end.

Since it will be nearly impossible to even find this movie, let this reviewer explain some of the cloying techniques used at the end while not revealing the ending. Not that the ending comes as a surprise, Melinda goes ballistic and mows down her students with an automatic weapon. Or not. Despite endless obstacles, Melinda and her children compete in the competition, and as they near the end of her song, tears stream down her face. And, before the story reveals who won, the film jumps forward a tad into the future, where things wrap up nicely, before going back to the awards ceremony. The naming of the winners itself is the most annoying point of the film, since Portes chose the cheesiest way to go about this.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 49 minutes, Tagalog and English with English subtitles, Not Rated but pretty harmless, most likely a PG, possibly a G.

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