With little characterization and even less plot, Service is a quirky yet engaging little oddity of a film fro the Philippines, directed by Brillante Mendoza, that has as its central character the Family Theater - a once-grand movie palace now covered in graffiti and faded, peeling film posters advertising the theater's second-most popular attraction: porn.
The theater, run by the equally once-grand Pineda family (who also lives above the theater), has as its main attraction the clientele the adult films draw; young street hustlers, gay men, and horny married men hook up with the dark confines and dank hallways of the faded and jaded theater, often with what's going on off-screen more exciting than the actual double features shown.
Service, which depicts little more than the family members' lives in connection with the theater that has become their lives, follows continuously as the family deals with infidelity and divorce, borrowing money to help keep things running, young love, grossly overflowing toilets, casual sex, boils, raising children, even a runaway goat ... all while somehow keeping the movie house running so the family itself can survive. In the unrated version a few of the sex scenes are unapologetically graphic, and the film overall often plays more like a reality show, with the camera hurrying to keep up as different situations (I hesitate to use the word "subplots" here, as there is really not a plot, period) unfold in an "average" day of trying to run a porn theater. Director Brillante Mendoza captures the gritty, grimy world of the theater perfectly, the graininess on-screen giving the film its raw texture - and the strikingly handsome Coco Martin, as young Alan, provides the ray of hope in the film for the Pineda family's future, when all is said and done. I'd heard a lot about Martin, prior to Service, but this was my first time seeing his work, and he alone makes the film worth watching.
Though even overall, I found Service intriguing and unique. While definitely not for everyone, and quirky to the point I am not even 100% sure why I liked it, this is one film I could watch again ... even to the point of purchasing on DVD. Even among the grit and grime and seediness, somehow there feels like a bit of a gem here.