Thy Womb

Early in this towering Filipino drama (2012), a sudden act of violence interrupts a seemingly calm fishing trip, introducing the possibility that the story might end tragically at any moment. The rest of the film is as tense as any Hollywood thriller, despite the fact that it takes place in a small fishing community and centers on a gentle, long-married couple. Played by Bembol Roco and Nora Aunor—two of the Philippines’ biggest stars, deliberately cast against type—the hard-working, childless pair represent a bulwark of dignity in Tawi-Tawi, an island turned into a war zone by pirates and sectarian militias. The elemental story and awesome natural imagery create a sense of timelessness, while the intense acting and camerawork make this feel utterly contemporary. Brillante Mendoza directed. In Tagalog with subtitles.