The Woman Who Left

Inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s story “God Sees the Truth, but Waits,” this extended drama is set in 1997, when the Philippines were plagued by economic and political unrest and rampant kidnappings. A schoolteacher (Charo Santos-Concio) returns home after serving 30 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit, only to learn that her husband has died and her son has vanished. Setting out to find him, she lingers in Calapan City, where she spies on the ex-lover who framed her; now wealthy, powerful, and heavily protected, he’s the polar opposite of the brutalized transvestite (John Lloyd Cruz) whom she nurses back to health. Shooting in wide-screen black and white, director Lav Diaz (Norte, the End of History) keeps the pace deliberate, favoring long takes and a fixed camera. His luminous, crystalline images, combined with a meticulous sound mix in which every background noise is seductive, pull the viewer into the heroine’s experience of profound loss and regeneration. In Tagalog with subtitles.