Monday, January 15, 2018

Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha (Mes de Guzman, Cinemalaya 2017)

Sharon Cuneta took a big risk with this comeback film that she produced. She must have strong faith in the script and trust in the film director to accept a role of a cussing, lonely alcoholic mother.

Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha starts with a charming animation segment, created by Ellen Ramos. It tells the story of a family in northern Philippines that was a blessing to their fellow neighbors. They were seen as being responsible for the community's overflowing happiness. There were yearly abundant onion harvests. Discordant families become whole again with the return of a prodigal child or homecoming of a lost spouse. Everyone was happy because of the bumper harvests and family reunions. One day, though, the daughter was seen crying. The so-called family that doesn't weep eventually left for some other place. The community's bountiful harvests soon vanished like the various family members.

Cora (Sharon Cuneta) is a mother despondent over the fate of her family. Her philandering husband left her. Her daughter eventually left her, too. Along with her newly-hired househelp, Cora drowns her sadness by guzzling bottles upon bottles of alcohol. During one drunken spree, the househelp Bebang (Moi Marcampo) blurted out that her uncle, a hard-nosed detective, can help Cora keep her family together again. He can bring together members of the family that never weeps. Once they find the family, Cora's own family can be whole again.

Director Mes de Guzman has slowly shed the pure indie filmmaking style he'd shown in the films Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong and the Earth Trilogy films. Gone are the purely Ilocano films. Gone, too, are his penchant for casting non-actors in major roles.

With Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha, Mes de Guzman broadens his audience by coming out with a laugh-a-thon comedy film. Sharon shows her knack for comedy once again. Moi ably holds her own against the Megastar. The laughs truly come by the dozens. The comic scenes shine through in this film. There are several cons, though, that mar the film.

Sharon's breakdown scene shocked the wits out of my mother, a long-time fan of the Megastar. The cussing and plate-throwing were too much to take for my mother, who have the same birth month as Sharon. The drama scene was handled in a way as if to show the acting chops of Sharon. The staging of the scene calls attention to the fact that someone is acting. (Too much acting, at that). Angeli Bayani nearly does a no-acting in Bagahe and won the Best Actress award in Cinemalaya 2017.

The climax is hastily brought up. Family reunions are all good. But, this scene smacks of the need to have a happy ending. Magic realism? Divine intervention? More like mainstream movie requirement. The film ended, though, on a good note with an Ely Buendia song accompanying the end credits.

Despite its shortcomings, Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha is good enough to be considered as one of the notable films of the Cinemalaya 2017 batch. Eduardo Roy Jr. was greatly missed last year at Cinemalaya. He didn't push through joining the competition despite being a finalist. His Lola Igna story could have brought some luster to the 2017 batch of films. Last year was the only time I felt the festival pass wasn't worth the price of PHP 3,500.

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