MOVIE REVIEW: Honor Thy Father (2015)

Honor Thy Father (2015) Review
Directed by Erik Matti
Written by Michiko Yamamoto

It is an ordinary day for Edgar (John Lloyd Cruz) that after attending to his plants, he hops into his car with a sunken face. While waiting for his daughter Angel (Krystal Brimner) to join him, he throws food out of the window for a stray dog to consume in seconds. It would have been just an ordinary day only if the drive is not for a visit to the principal’s office. He stares blankly at his daughter as the principal narrates how the kid has poked the eye of a bully classmate.

It is a secret to keep in that the two just go home as if nothing has happened, without any mention of the subject to his wife. At home, Kaye (Meryll Soriano), is convincing a group of friends to invest in her father’s business where everyone drastically gets rich. Edgar sits from afar, listening to how people gets swooned easily.

A world for a stranger. Edgar sees the environment as an uncharted territory where he immerses himself but still does not get the hang of it. A foreigner in a bizarre land. He joins the sea of swaying hands in worship but only with his physical presence. Amidst the hymns of praise of fellow Pentecostal parishioners, it’s as if there is no music to hear other than the beating of his heart. His mind is somewhere else as he looks away, almost through the walls of the Church of Yeshua he is now a part of. Without a doubt, he feels no less than an outcast.

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Never did they imagine that everything is a pyramid scam. Their family has already made millions out of investing to the scheme but things just go awry when Kaye’s father is killed and the money is nowhere to be found. Much to the anger of their investors, violence enters their then-peaceful house as those they once called friends feel impelled to make the family return the money. This ks despite the fact that their family has lost their own savings as well. In effect, Kaye breaks down in suffering while Edgar got his face broken–moreso his eyes–with not much to defend himself.

With nowhere else to lean to, they ask help from their bishop who is straighforward in that the family’s millions’ worth of donation is solely for the Church. “Yeshua will provide,” Tirso Cruz III’s character cries. Then come death threats and an assault to their kid. They decide to seek the aid of Edgar’s family: their choice funneled down to plotting a bigger crime.

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There is an overflow of emotion inside JLC’s Edgar. The passion that works can easily be mistaken for greed. But at the end of the day, the performance is riveting and provocative in the context of letting the audience ask themselves “Where is God in all these?”

Honor Thy Father laughs at itself and within every little issue it wants to observe, crossing the demarcation points of socially acceptable norms and the dark side of human hypocrisy. In the middle of inequality, it dons thriller and self-aware comedy that hits on religion, politics, class, materialism and even down to fundamentalism.

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“Will you poke them in the eye, Papa?” the kid asks Edgar after some yuppies raggedly shave her head much to her shame. It is rather a heartfelt scene when he shaves his own head in front of her as a sign of support. The father-and-daughter tandem is polished as it has back in the principal’s office. The relationship between the two is founded in affection and the necessity to hold onto the loose chances of life.

That trip of Edgar and Angel paves the transition to an otherworld away from the pressure of the suburban. They go up to the mountains to enlist his brothers in a heist that would furnish them with the money needed to pay back their debtors. Only this act involves stealing the collection money of the Church from inside–risky at its core.

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Erik Matti proves himself once more as a determined director among the new-breed and the seasoned. He has previously depicted traditional sex trade in Prosti and delve into a close look at police corruption in On the Job to which Honor Thy Father is righteously compared. There is indispensable fluidity in his craft as he pushes borders in his latest work. First thing is its solid objective to serve something fresh to the plate of the Filipino audiences. Another thing is his skillfulness in fleshing out a more mature role fit for John Lloyd Cruz (but of course it would have been treated differently with Dingdong Dantes as the lead since he was the first choice).

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There is evidently a hefty hand in each frame that it would be impossible to take the overall mood for granted. The writing of Michiko Yamamoto is focused on the protagonist and lets the story flow along his character while being wary of his conscience at stake. Danced by Dong Abay’s melancholic rendition of Ama Namin, the composition of the environment mixes with the music and invokes a tinge of gloom. This is paired with the pastels of the sun-kissed skies and textured land captured by director of photography Ber Cruz.

We see another familial inspection in the consolation of Edgar’mother, played by Perla Bautista. “A parent can forgive anything”, she reminds him. But to honor is another thing. Anyone can be forgiven in spite of the evil we have within.

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MOVIE REVIEW: All You Need is Pag-ibig (2015)

All You Need Is Pag-ibig

In the Q&A of one screening of her first film Six Separation from Lilia Cuntapay early this year, Antoinette Jadaone mentioned that she will not get tired of doing romantic comedy projects because she knows she is meant for this genre. True enough, the energy never falters for the young director who knows how to tug at the heartstrings of the Filipino audiences.

Jadaone has been on a roll since last year with one movie project after another. Her most successful feat to date is her directorial and penning merits for Cinema One Originals’ That Thing Called Tadhana starring Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman. This year, she smoothly transitioned to the local tube with On the Wings of Love starring James Reid and Nadine Lustre. In her first  Metro Manila Film Festival entry, she managed to bring out many forms of love from a powerhouse ensemble through All You Need is Pag-ibig.

Calling to mind Love ActuallyAll You Need is Pag-ibig tells the interconnected stories of different people who fall in and out of love.

In the media setting, after breaking down in a live TV guesting, Love (Kris Aquino), a love advice guru who has been hosting her own show for fifteen years, flies to Coron in Palawan where she accidentally meets Dom (Derek Ramsay). In the workplace setting, we have Mel (Jodi Sta. Maria) who has a crush on her heartbroken boss Eric (Ian Veneracion).

The young ones and the young at heart have two separate stories. Anya (Kim Chiu), with her high school sweetheart Dino (Xian Lim) pretends to be successful during a high school reunion; and on the other hand, we have Loisa (Nova Villa) who feels that her husband, Jaime (Ronaldo Valdez), has been neglecting her and asks that they part ways.

A forgettable link to Kim’s character is the kid she tutors (Bimby Aquino Yap).  On the side, we see a lonely heart in Corina (Pokwang) who takes care of twins Kelsey and Hannah (Talia and Julia Concio).

Not everything is as interesting as the whole idea of earnestly looking into different forms of romantic love across different ages. Two stories work the best among the lot: that of Jodi-Ian and that of Nova-Ronaldo. The sparks are consistently there, regardless of the contrasting tone of their stories. The blossoming love story in the office is well-suited for Jodi and Ian, whose pairing is fresh off the TV drama Pangako Sa ‘Yo. The withering love story between the characters of Nova and Rolando effectively touches the heart albeit reminiscent of the similarly-themed 1st Ko si Third  where Nova plays the lead role.

Apart from the two given highlights, it can be easily considered that other scenes serve as breathers in between those portions that are so amusing to string along with. Kris exudes a different “Kris Aquino” which is very far from her usual loud, obnoxious take on her characters. It’s nice to see Derek without his shirt on but it pretty much sums up as a requirement for the films he has been doing. Had Herbert Bautista’s original inclusion to this project materialized, there could have been a better story for Kris to follow through, if not merely a comedy relief. The Kim-Xian tandem does not work as much as their story demands with two of them confined in stereotypical delivery of young adult personalities. Pokwang’s solitary condition is not as affecting as in her previous roles like in A Mother’s Story.

For whatever it lacks in its narrative, the film compensates with fascinating cinematography, making it impossible not to take notice of the beauty of the locations as well as the keenness in designs.

Ultimately, All You Need is Pag-ibig might not be the strongest among the works of Jadaone. However, it renders with the singular vision of showcasing various stories through voices that need to be heard by its audiences–fans or not of the romance genre. There is more to see in Jadaone as a television and movie director but it would be beneficial for her to take some time off her comfort zones. Who knows, there could  be a wider landscape ahead just waiting to be discovered.

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