(Contains MANY spoilers!)
My favorite story type involves the ‘character turn’ (my own term) ie., observing what a character does when faced with overwhelming change. Initially the main character is in a comfortable situation after which tremendous stress is introduced forcing them do something drastic. At that point a story becomes interesting because you watch a transformation. Faced with so much pressure all pretensions are shed and a real person is revealed.
John Lloyd’s character Edgar is introduced as skeptical about his father in law’s MLM scheme where his wife is active in. He is also not too sure about the Church they go to where the pious Bishop extolls the virtues of cash offerings a little too enthusiastically. Nevertheless he is supportive, preferring to play the role of helpful husband.
The eventual happens and the MLM scheme collapses. They lose everything, their creditors haul their belongings away, and worst of all their child is threatened unless he can produce 6M pesos.
Edgar is as desperate as desperate can be and in the process John Lloyd Cruz, Tirso Cruz III, William Martinez and even the guy who plays their daughter’s kidnapper in the few seconds he was on screen deliver performances that made my jaw drop.
In your moment of desperation you become impatient for solutions. Akin to having a gaping wound that needs immediate attention, you shun every solution that you know does not work. So when faced with the Bishop’s excuse that he could not help because ‘the money belongs to the Church’ Edgar explodes in anger at the blatant hipocrisy. It is as real as any movie scene can possibly get, evoking strong emotion from both the actors and myself.
Erik Matti’s portrayal of ‘baddies’ is perfect. Bad guys are not the dark skinned pot bellied Max Alvarado stereotypes in thousands of Pinoy action films, laughing hysterically while brandishing armalytes. The Congressman / Kidnapper is someone you can pass by on the street, but Matti shoots him from the ground up as if larger than life, sitting on a couch with a terrified child between him and his wife, holding a pistol as he explains his terms with Edgar, menacing and hostile in angry instability. Yayo Aguila is his perfect accomplice wife, sweetly asking they be forgiven for threatening to kill their child because, so sorry, they just want their money back. Even the way she leaves is the way an embarrassed guest would, clutching her things hurriedly as if she felt she had inconvenienced the hosts too much.
And that is what makes this movie shine. I read a review about how there was so much negativity in it but that just misses the point. People like the Congressman / kidnapper exist. Duplicitous religious leaders exist. MLM leaders abound. And they are multi faceted characters, inviting you to their home, feeding you from their own plates, genuinely and sincerely wishing you the best even as they stab you slowly in the back.
Tirso Cruz III’s Bishop, I believe, sincerely believes in what he’s doing to be true and righteous. He really does believe he is doing the best for Edgar even as he refuses to help. Edgar’s wife Kaye (Meryll Soriano) absolutely believes she is helping people out. That is why MLM schemes are so successful and difficult to stop. The people involved extend every effort to spread their poison because they really, honestly and truthfully think they are doing you a favor, and anything less than their 100% effort to ‘help’ is a disservice on their part.
At the end even what happens to the main character is just as real. While he manages to escape he still suffers untold loss. In real life there are no victorious heroes going off into the sunset. He is destroyed just like everybody else.
I’m going to watch the MMFF winner Walang Forever because really, if that movie is better than this one then I fully expect to get my mind blown.
John Lloyd Cruz had been wasting his time in rom coms. The actual hardest part about writing this review is putting into words how I feel about his performance. What I ended up with was this: He makes everyone look like they are acting. Anyone who would have to work with him need to bring their game because if you don’t he will make you look like an amateur.