Beautiful but exasperating, “Off World” offers the kind of old-school arthouse experience wherein actors stare soulfully, endlessly into space, narrative and character development being too vulgar to consider. Following a young Filipino-Canadian man’s return to his Manila slum roots, Mateo Guez’s first feature will find some fest-circuit supporters. But its somber self-consciousness as objet d’art makes the slim runtime (including nearly 10 minutes’ closing credits) flow like sludge. Commercial prospects are off, in this world at least.

Ironically named protag Lucky (ever-sulking Marc Abaya) hopes to discover why he was given up for adoption by a mother who kept her other son. He’s helped by agency intermediary Julia (Che Ramos), with whom he eventually falls in love. She introduces him to his sibling, Mamacita (Lao Rodriguez), a cross-dressing hustler. Lucky doesn’t immediately identify himself as blood relation to either his brother or their mother (Irma Adlawan), who still lives in giant-dump ghetto Smoky Mountain. When he finally does, maudlin histrionics are fully indulged. Otherwise, pic is cryptic, mannered and glacial, its sole highlight being Francois Dagenais’ gorgeous (if almost too dark) lensing of sometimes spectacularly inhumane residential locations.

Off World


  • Production: A Theo Films presentation. (International sales: Canadian Filmmakers' Distribution Center, Toronto.) Produced by Mateo Guez, Byron Kent Wong. Executive producers, Ria Limjap, James Cunningham, Andy Marshall, Francois Guez, Olivier Guez, Max Guez, Colette Guez. Directed by Mateo Guez. Screenplay, Guez, Pamela Mala Sinha.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Francois Dagenais; editor, James O'Bryan; music, Bryan Kent Wong, Lindsey Hilliard, NLX; production designer, Leeroy New; costume designer, Kermit Tesoro. Reviewed at Frameline (World Cinema), San Francisco, June 21, 2010. (Also in 2009 Sao Paolo Film Festival.) Running time: 76 MIN.
  • With: With: Marc Abaya, Irma Adlawan, Marco Morales, Che Ramos, Lao Rodriguez, David Usher. (English, Tagalog dialogue)