At nearly two and a half hours, Selda devotes a lot of time to "imagery" and "lyricism" that may trick many people into thinking it's a classy film. What it really is is a movie that masks the ugliness of its homophobia. Selda has the bitter taste of an anti-gay film.
It's not readily apparent in its first half. We're supposed to root for an incarcerated man, Rommel (Sid Lucero), mainly because he doesn't deserve to be in jail (his crime was accidental), but also because he's constantly threatened by gay rape -- first by the warden (Michael De Mesa), then more pressingly by the prison bully (Allan Paule). To make matters scarier, he's heterosexual, in love with a woman outside (Ara Mina). Apart from this, we know nothing about the man, and his character disappointingly doesn't deepen the rest of the way. What drives the drama is not character psychology, for sure, but the suspense of looming abuse from external villains.
What's offensive is the disparity of what the movie chooses to show and what it chooses not to. When events turn violent, Selda is detailed and unforgiving. The rape scene in the woods is a feat of orchestrated sadism. We're also treated to misery porn -- aesthetic videography of tough prison life. Essentially, writer-directors Ellen Ramos and Paolo Villaluna employ great effort to victimize our hero. But when it comes to depicting the substantial element of the story -- the bond that develops between two inmates; Brokeback Mountain behind bars -- Selda becomes subliminal to the point of avoidance. We barely glimpse the intimacy between two men in the dark, and the movie cuts too early to tell us what exactly happened. Selda belabors on terrifying us with the negatives of homosexuality (or man-to-man sexuality, if you will), but scrimps on making us understand the minds of the men as human beings, thereby failing to redeem them. Is it any wonder the rest of the plotpoints are contrived and confounding? Selda disrespects its gay subject through its discriminative style and philosophy.
The second half is more of the same abhorrent filmmaking, and structurally identical too, although set in the expanse of a farm, years later. Rommel, now a simple family man, is visited by the man with whom he once had an intimate moment, Esteban (Emilio Garcia), and again, the tension that ensues is so underdramatized, it's frustrating, but there sure are a lot of shots of the beautiful green grass. Again, it culminates in an explosion of blood and tears, and to drive the nail in the coffin, it was all the gay man's fault. Or gay men. Or the gay monsters that lurk inside the otherwise straight men. Damn, those homosexuals can sure destroy our lives.