Ana Barredo’s engaging The Year I Did Nothing opens in 1985 Manila with Santos siblings Christina (Nora Lapena), George Washington (Jared Xander Silva), and Elena (Faith Toledo) all glued to television set watching and re-watching their favorite American television programs as they prepare for their planned move to the United States. Based upon a real family in the Philippines during the year leading up to the first planned presidential election to unseat Ferdinand Marcos, The Year I Did Nothing is an involving film that wraps itself around the political history of the Philippines but does so through both a cultural and intimate, more familial lens.
Watching the immersion into American culture is occasionally funny yet always endearing, the story sold by the film’s terrific ensemble cast largely led by its trio of youngsters and their youthful, yet insightful enthusiasm. During the course of the film, the kids stop going to school in an effort to save the money for their move, while Barredo does a terrific job of capturing exactly how life changes and life stays the same for the family as they await word that their move is happening.
During a time when such issues are frequently in the headlines here in the United States, Barredo’s light, human touch admirably yet honestly captures the human element of a familiar story. Barredo wisely avoids histrionics, for the most part, many of the film’s best scenes being dining room table conversations where personalities come to light and individual performances shine.
The Year I Did Nothing accurately portrays the years it took for the move by the Santos family to come into play even with a U.S. living aunt having sponsored their application. The story is largely told through Christina’s eyes and, indeed, Lapena is easily the film’s highlight with pointed dialogue and a contagious spirit. She loves American television, especially the likes of Laverne & Shirley and The A-Team, and watching this American immersion occur alongside the upheaval going on in the Philippines is both a history lesson and a journey through the culture of the Santos family.
The Year I Did Nothing continues on the indie fest circuit where it has already captured Best Drama at the Independent Filmmakers Showcase. This light yet incredibly relevant film deserves to continue its successful festival run and one can only hope for an indie distribution deal so that it can reach a wider audience.
For more information on The Year I Did Nothing, visit the film’s Facebook page linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic