Thy Womb. 2012. Philippines. Directed by Brillante Mendoza. With Nora Aunor, Bembol Roco, Lovi Poe. In Filipino; English subtitles. 105 min.
What can be more punishing for a midwife, who greets countless babies to life, than to face her own infertility? Such is the story of Shaleha, a Muslim woman in the Tawi-Tawi island community in southwest Philippines. To satisfy her husband’s desire for an offspring, Shaleha takes the painful initiative to find him a younger wife. Known for his gritty portrayals of the perils of urban life, director Brillante Mendoza takes an unusual turn to tell this story, set in a far-flung community where the sky is expansive and life moves at a much slower pace. He continues, however, to employ his signature vérité style (though tamer than usual), injecting a sense of immediacy into Shaleha’s world of natural, cultural, and social constraints. Grande dame of Philippine cinema Nora Aunor gives a spontaneous, heartfelt performance as the quiet heroine of this award-winning picture.