Film Review: Watch List

As part of his election campaign in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte was adamant that he was going to crack down on drug dealers. Whatever your feelings are about the president of the Philippines, he has certainly been true to his word. The ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Filipinos. Extra-judicial executions are common and there is widespread police corruption. Ben Rekhi’s new film, Watch List, focuses on the impact this has on one family.

Maria (Alessandra de Rossi) and Arturo (Jess Mendoza) are struggling to make ends meet, bringing up three children in a Manilla slum. They have put their troubled pasts behind them and are determined to give their children better lives. However, when he’s killed in mysterious circumstances, all this changes. Determined to uncover the truth, she must pin all her hopes on an outwardly helpful cop, Ventura (Jake Macapagal), but quickly gets swept into a murky world.

Watch List is a powerful drama which brings the claustrophobic suffocation of the slums to life. Corruption is rife, and Maria faces a stark choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. She might discover the truth but will she lose her soul in the process? Alessandra de Rossi is brilliant as the determined wife and mother, her anxieties writ large on her face. It feels real and that’s where Watch List succeeds so well. It’s an immersive drama which shines the light on Duterte’s murderous regime.

Watch List is available On Demand in the US from 1 September.

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