‘Family History’ review: Bitoy’s dramedy triumphs as GMA’s comeback film

Laughs aside, Michael V’s ‘Family History’ is a heartwarming film filled with strong core values on family, life, and marriage.

Michael V. (“Bitoy”) outdoes himself as he takes on the job of producing, writing, directing and starring in his own film. In Family History, Bitoy plays Alex Dela Cruz, a happily married family man who finds himself at a crossroads when a terminal disease challenges his marriage to his wife, May (portrayed by returning “Kapuso” Ms. Dawn Zulueta). At its center, Family History tackles hardships and temptations of a husband in maintaining a relationship with his sick wife. These challenges bears much pragmatic life lessons and viewers can really feel the dedication that Bitoy poured in his work.

Family History has a great story to tell and a satisfactory execution to justify it. Yes, it does have plot holes and some sequences that are best left on the editing floor to achieve better pacing, but the film is able to deliver its message when it mattered the most. It’s a lesson about loving beyond imposed limitations, dealing with heartaches, getting in control of your emotions when things go sour, atoning for your mistakes and consequently, learning to forgive those who have wronged you. Those core themes alone are worthy takeaways that other films nowadays take for granted. Not to mention, the film’s heartwarming moments mesh well will Bitoy’s signature brand of comedy. 

Michael V. in ‘Family History’

Family History also remarkably depicts how cancer affects a person’s outlook as well as the people around him/her. After revealing the May’s illness in the first act, audiences are thrown aback as she also confesses her issues in her marriage. This part of the story truly changes the phase for the whole film. It can be emotional yet it’s positively infused with funny moments that make us realize that enduring love triumphs over pain and sickness. 

The film is also boosted by its strong performances. In here, Bitoy solidifies himself as – in my opinion – the best comedian ever. The film is written to play on Bitoy’s strengths when it comes to injecting funny moments. He’s really good at playing with our emotions, balancing every moment where audiences are supposed to cry but he makes them laugh instead. Though there are some scenes that demand more seriousness and the actor tends to tip the situation to a lighter mood. Dawn, who’s bedridden for more than half of the film, is still in her prime as an excellent dramatic scenes. Both actors are able to deliver an endearing chemistry that balances the heavy and light themes of the script.

Dawn Zulueta in ‘Family History’

Bitoy’s character Alex is also a supportive dad to his son Malix (Miguel Tanfelix) who’s in a relationship with his schoolmate Jenna (Bianca Umali). Dubbed as ‘BiDawn,’ the rising pair’s first team up adds an interesting layer of drama and requisite “kilig” scenes for their fans. Adding support to the main cast is Kakai Bautista as Dawn’s best friend; Paolo Contis as Bitoy’s office buddy; and Nonie Buencamino as his effeminate boss who earns a chunk of big laughs.

Miguel Tanfelix and Bianca Umali in ‘Family History’

Michael V. does a remarkable job in telling a powerful story with such awareness towards sickness and mental health. Notwithstanding some cinematography lapses (the stiff camerawork and off-putting transitions), the film does not stop at shallow entertainment brought by fun sitcom reel material. Overall, Family History is a great and successful directorial debut for Michael V, a noteworthy comeback for GMA Pictures. It’s a pleasure to watch, not just once but ’46’ times.

4 out of 5 stars
Produced by GMA Pictures and Mic Test Entertainment. Directed by Michael V, ‘Family History’ stars Michael V, Dawn Zulueta, Bianca Umali, Miguel Tanfelix, John Estrada, Paolo Contis, Nonie Buencamino, Kakai Bautista, Ina Feleo, Mikoy Morales, Nikki Co, Jemwell Ventenilla and Vince Gamad with special participation of Dingdong Dantes and Eugene Domingo. 125 minutes. PG-13.

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