Summary: Two Ends of a Spectrum
The film takes place in two timelines and involves two couples from different continents. The Australian couple, Walt and Ruth, lives in the present and are bickering on account of the husband’s obsession to catch flies that to his wife’s dismay, resulted to the neglect of his household chores. The Filipino couple lives in the memory of the husband, Jessie. He remembers his wife, Appollonia, as an activist writer who died during the height of martial law in the Philippines.
The paths of Jessie, Walt and Ruth intersect in the lawn of Walt and Ruth where Jessie works as one of their Asian gardeners. Unexpectedly, Jessie gets in the middle of the couple’s domestic war by being forced to serve as a witness to the suspicious death and capture of a fly. In the end, Walt and Jessie become mates because Jessie seems to have chosen to testify for the sake of saving Walt’s reputation from his wife.
Reflection: Of Diaspora, Dichotomies and Dreams
Love is a short film that contains a long list of themes. It is undoubtedly a diaspora story but it does not put the emotionally charged motifs of economic inequality, violent discrimination and incessant racism at the center of its conflict. It is with a striking subtlety that the ethnically based social hierarchies in an Anglo-Celtic settler society such as Australia are shown. This is done by describing a group of Asian gardeners in the lawn of the Australian couple. Even if the writer-director is well aware of the diversity of Asians, there is no attempt to differentiate these Asian workers. This is in the same regard that for some conservative Australians, Asians are generally seen as a homogenous people who started migrating during the 1850s Gold Rush and continued entering the country as mail-order brides in the 1980s. In this sense, the Orientalist view is used in framing the character of the Asians. The stereotype is embodied through indistinct blue-collared Asians, working for a middle class Australian couple. It further extends this image by their peeping-tom-like and snickering gestures indicating wanton escape from their back-breaking labor.
As the Asians are projected this manner, a double vision occurs while these Asians are seen by the audience amusing themselves by secretly listening and watching the Australian couple quarrel about their laundry and the husband’s ill-attempt to catch flies. The entertainment the Australian couple gives to the Asians represents how Australian society is in turn viewed by Asians—funny, strange and oftentimes, entertaining. So as the audience gazes at the Asians through an Orientalist lens, the Asians in turn return the gaze secretly and laughably. This therefore shows how the Orientalist framing used in the beginning was in fact instrumental to return the gaze, which seems to be the film’s primary intention.
Jessie is the only gardener whose Asianness will soon be identified. This aloof character is isolated from the rest as he chooses not to join the amused spectators. His identity will be revealed through a flashback of his younger years in the streets of Manila during the era of Marcos’ martial law. The dilapidated building he enters, with a prostitute along his path, then the argument (about killings in the streets) he will get home to between his wife and work colleague, Logan, powerfully and effectively highlights an era of unrest, poverty, economic uncertainty, political depravity and social corruption. Through such imageries, Jessie is given a past, a history, hence, providing his character more depth and empathy compared to the rest. These imageries are effective because while they powerfully continue the stereotype of third-world urbanity, they in turn depict a character with emotional depth and a painful past, as opposed to other protagonists in the story. In these parts, Jessie, the subaltern, is allowed to...