Social networks have a special way of distorting the reality that surrounds us, making us somewhat intellectually numb and thus more prone to believing in things that randomly met people tell us. Though we hear about many cases of online scams that just happen to be harmless jokes, there is also a long of list of those that end up seriously damaging a victim’s bank account or even life. Still, there is a huge, scary tendency in the modern world to chat with strangers that people know nothing about. It’s been said many times that those who are lonely in real life sometimes find a visualization of their hopes and dreams in a person they’ve never met but somehow feel deeply attached to through the process of constant conversation on social network platforms such as Facebook. While it might be true that 1 out of 10 people can find true love while browsing through the web, there is a huge chance that the other 9 will find nothing but shameless thieves desperately trying to earn some easy money.
Babagwa presents a story of the likes of those 9 people, but seen through the eyes of a sneaky criminal on the other side of the computer screen. Taking place in the Philippines, the story centers on Greg (Alex Vincent Medina) and Marney (Joey Paras), a couple of frauds that approach their victims with a carefully designed fake Facebook account. Every detail counts when it comes to setting up a seemingly perfect crime, no matter if online or not. Marney, a skirt-wearing homosexual with leadership tendencies, is the mastermind behind the whole operation, while Greg is supposed to talk to the ‘prospects’ over the phone, flirt with them, make them fall in love, which might eventually lead to the desired money transfer. Though the whole plan goes rather smoothly at first and a few harmless human beings get caught in the spider web (that’s how the title translates), Greg’s sudden and shocking change of mind makes the tables turn in a completely unpredictable and amusing fashion. Namely, Greg himself starts falling in love with an unknown female ‘prospect’ that he talked to over the phone, even after a successful fraud attempt takes place. He doesn’t know if Daisy (Alma Concepcion) isn’t a scammer as well, yet he forces himself to believe that this time he really found the love of his life, which eventually leads to him wanting to meet the person whose voice he’s been hearing for almost a month.
This part of the film somehow brings Catfish up to mind, yet the way the whole online farce is presented in Babagwa makes the storyline more satisfying, more brutal in its ostentatious roughness and explicitness. All those luscious, painfully pastel-colored, dream-like scenes of fake Facebook characters interacting with each other are a perfect representation of what a regular human being might see in his mind while chatting with strangers. It’s truly funny, yes, but it’s also brutally real in a way that makes the idea of an unpunishable stranger even more terrifying. And in all that Babagwa personalizes there is a decent amount of comicality that is spot on considering the dark humor that perfectly fits the overall straightforwardness of the plot.
The less serious narrative gives way to a thrilling, emotional change of pace as soon as Greg decides to follow his plan of building a virtual relationship with Daisy, putting all the other characters in the background. While Marney steals the show in the first part of the film, his presence is dearly missed in the other half, given that he’s a marvelous scene-stealer. One of the last scenes explains why it’s him who’s the main star of the movie and, in a particularly clever way, shows that even the most unsuitable person might become a part of the dangerous scamming machine that’s been able fool people all around the world.