Still living with his aging parents and listing towards his 50th birthday, Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas), a Filipino immigrant in Ontario, prays every night for God to rid him of his shyness. Although things go from bad to worse, the Almighty seemingly answers his petition when his beatific cousin Marisol (Sheila Lotuaco) arrives to offer support. Through her genuine warmth and generous spirit, she slowly transforms Joshua’s house back into a home and incrementally lures the anxious introvert out of his shell.
Seamlessly transitioning to feature filmmaking after a series of acclaimed shorts, Martin Edralin fashions a disarmingly tender, deeply nuanced, and uncommonly intimate character study that achieves an exquisite balance of gentle humour and humane drama. The story mechanics are so delicately calibrated and sense of naturalism so pervasive that we often feel that we’re simply witnessing life unfold onscreen – though it’s also worth pointing out this charming and subtly playful movie also features a couple of simply irresistible dance sequences.
Island’s gorgeous empathy acts like a soothing and gentle balm for the spirit.
Islands is a feel-good movie that, in an odd way, doesn’t try to make us feel too good. That’s why there’s a little bit of art to it. Rogelio Balagtas has never been an actor before, but his performance is exacting, and touching, in its casual repression. He shows you the prison this man is living in just because of who he is. […] Islands isn’t a downer; it lifts us to a higher place. Yet it does so not merely with empathy but with impressive subtlety.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
This story of isolation and aging—of having to take care of your ailing parents while not knowing how to take care of yourself—is a stunning feat of lived-in filmmaking, with shot compositions and confident pacing as organized as furniture in a living room. Filled with the hallmarks of a strong director, it is as emotionally immersive as it is unassuming. [Edralin is] a filmmaker we can trust with our most uncomfortable but honest experiences.
Nick Allen, rogerebert.com
Rogelio Balagtas, Sheila Lotuaco, Esteban Comilang, Pablo S.J. Quiogue, Vangie Alcasid, Bianca Yambanis
In Tagalog and English with English subtitles
Geoblocked to British Columbia
Martin Edralin, Priscilla Galvez