Barber’s Tales (Mga Kwentong Barbero) tells the story of Marilou (Eugene Domingo), wife of Jose (Daniel Fernando), the only barber in the community. The film begins by showing her being enslaved by her husband, acting more like a secretary than a partner, even ignoring his issues on extra marital affair. After the sudden death of Jose, she reluctantly takes his job and soon she was let in to the affairs of the mayor (Nonie Buencamino), befriended his emotionally unstable wife (Iza Calzado), and on the sideline learns to help rebels from the Marcos dictatorial regime.
The film, as the title suggests, is an anecdote about the tales from a barbershop with political and feminism themes. It tackles the searching for one’s identity, the oppression of women on different levels of the society, and the government brutality. The strength of the film lies on its subject matter but it is in the execution that it starts to crumble. It is quiet in most of its scenes and when it tries to leave an impact, it does so effectively but it has a tendency to have a soap opera kind of momentum and twists. However, Eugene Domingo’s performance pieces the narrative together, overpowering some of the weak points of the film. She delivers her role in a controlled and detached manner, you could easily see the internal struggle in her meekness.
While it runs on a serious tone, Barber’s Tales manages to pull off some hints of jokes and puns care of Susan (Gladys Reyes), Marilou’s friend who gets pregnant twice in the entire run of the film. Also present is the spinster Tess (Sharmaine Buencamino) whose friendship with Marilou takes a chaotic turn when she finds out about her nephew Edmond’s (Nicco Manalo) secret. All the cast were impressive as each were highlighted in their own rightful way. Eddie Garcia as the priest is also one thing to watch out for aside from a superstar cameo role.
As for the cinematic technicalities of the film, it involves heavy close up and counter shot techniques, consistent day and night stills, and a prominent yellow-brown tones. The musical scoring by Ryan Cayabyan is moving and the editing is stable though I want to note the overexposed scenes whenever daytime was being established. I felt like someone just opened the lights in the middle of my sleep. That, exactly.
At its core, Barber’s Tales is about the changes it hopes to achieve: in camaraderie, in the population problem, in the government, and in the significance of women at that time. It aims to condemn patriarchy and all that restricts the people from being free. With it, it achieves the message it aspires to deliver through the paradoxically incredible stories from your resident barber.
Watch the trailer HERE.
Awards gained prior to Philippine screening:
Audience Award | 2013 Udine (Italy) Film Festival
Arri Award | 2013 Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum
Best Actress | 2013 Tokyo International Film Festival
Best Director | 2014 Madrid International Film Festival