During its Cinemalaya run, I’ve heard plenty of good things about Jason Paul Laxamana’s Mercury is Mine and it killed me that I wasn’t able to support it on cinema because there were very few screenings outside of Metro Manila. After seeing it belatedly, I don’t really know how to feel about it because it totally weirded me out.
Synopsis: Carmen (Pokwang), an owner of an eatery in Pampanga comes face to face with an American teenager named Mercury (Bret Jackson) who begs him for work in exchange for food and shelter. The pair form a unique bond as they begin to live together.
Mercury is Mine had a great premise. It was unique and while it was initially pegged as a light tale about these two contrasting characters, one can’t help but feel from the beginning that there was going to be a payoff from all the positive vibes that Pokwang’s comedic scenes in the beginning. True enough, the movie does take a dark turn but I’m not sure that I was prepared over how weird it got.
Prepare yourself, the next paragraphs will enter spoiler territory! Skip to the last paragraph to check how I felt about the movie (minus spoilers).
I liked the fact that the film took its time to develop the characters of Mercury and Carmen even before the two of them met. It laid the groundwork of where they were coming from even before their first scene together so their actions make sense. However, as their relationship progressed, I was unsure of what the film was actually going for. Was Pokwang interested in Mercury as a son or was she interested in him as a lover? In this sense, I was quite unsure of how I was supposed to feel about their interactions because it confused the hell out of me. And what was it with Mercury? Did the script want to portray him as mentally unhinged or what? Because the complete 360 from his first projection until his last, completely threw me off. I get that he lost some affection for Carmen when he saw how she treated her kids but it was too much of an overreaction, really to unravel like that.
Because of the unclear relationship between the two, the motivations behind Carmen’s protectiveness over Mercury felt off. Was she concerned because she saw him as a son or was she jealous because she felt like she was going to get replaced by the gay dude as his partner in his new world? The fact that Mercury barehandedly found the treasure with no plans and not even a shovel when countless others have scoured the mountains for years was far more preposterous than anything that this movie could come up with. And Carmen’s odd request, coupled with her farewell to Mercury and her lack of regard to what became of him was super weird after all the drama about him leaving her.
Pokwang and Bret Jackson, I think delivered on their roles quite well, given that the direction was unclear, at least to me. I appreciate all the attempts for contrasts, symbolisms, cultural awareness (especially with the celebration of Pinoy food) and other artistic elements infused in the movie but because my initial issue sat at the core of the movie, I was distracted from enjoying the film by the constant questions in my mind that I really couldn’t get behind any of it.
All in all, Mercury was Mine was overall, not a bad movie. But I had too many issues with it to consider it a good one. I think that it was a good social commentary on how Filipinos viewed Americans as a superior race but the film was saying so much more that the message was muddled by everything that the script wanted to say. At times, it was cringe-worthy. I don’t doubt that many people will find this a great film but personally, I’m not one of those people. Sorry, not sorry. Maybe I just didn’t get the memo.