Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ready with your hankies?

STARBYTES By Butch Francisco
The Philippine Star 11/16/2006

The tried and tested formula to come up with a tearjerker is to make orphans out of the child characters, beat the hell out of them and subject them to all sorts of physical abuse and torture.

Unitel’s Inang Yaya tries the reverse by showing love, compassion and teaching kids all the right values and succeeds in coming up with one of the most effective tearjerkers in the history of local movies.

Directed by Pablo Biglang-awa Jr. and Veronica Velasco (she is also credited for the screenplay), Inang Yaya casts Maricel Soriano as an all-around helper in the home of young upper middle-class couple Zoren Legaspi and Sunshine Cruz. Her main responsibility, however, is to play nanny to her young ward, Erika Oreta.

The big irony of Maricel’s life in the story is actually the fact that while she is able to care for another couple’s kid, she is unable to attend to her own daughter (Tala Santos) in the province. Looking after her child is grandmother Marita Zobel, who tries to instill discipline in the young girl.

Unfortunately, the grandmother passes away and Maricel is forced to bring her daughter to Manila to live with her in the home of her employers. Now, she is torn between her own flesh and blood and the child she had learned to love as her own.

The plot of Inang Yaya isn’t all that strange because it happens to practically all domestic helpers working abroad. That’s the cruel joke the economic crisis has played on these poor women who have to leave their families and go elsewhere to make a living.

Luckily for Maricel, she ends up with kindhearted employers who treat her like family – and this also happens in real life because for all of the world’s nastiness, there are still a lot of good people on this earth.

By showing what is positive, Inang Yaya as a tearjerker works – and works in wonderful ways. Whoever thought that could be possible – given our culture where media highlights only what is negative because this is what sells on TV and even in the papers?

I personally like the characters here because they are generally sympathetic – basically good people who show kindness and concern to others. But at the same time, they are not black-and-white cardboard characters who are labeled good and bad. Liza Lorena’s character as the matriarch, for instance, has a condescending attitude toward servants. But she is no monster and, in fact, has the ability to see, detect and appreciate the pureness in people’s intentions. Maricel Soriano, on the other hand, is the ever-reliable helper, but at the same time also has a mean streak in her which she displays when she starts wishing to have this one opportunity to push Liza Lorena "down the cliff." Of course, she isn’t serious when she says this, but we see here that her screen character is no picture of perfection either.

What is perfect is her portrayal of the helper, who has to make a lot of sacrifices to serve both her family (in terms of finances) and her masters, who are her source of finances. She has no big dramatic highlights here and yet she delivers in this film one of the best performances of her career.

It is also a relief to see Liza Lorena rescued from the horror genre where her great talent was wasted. (If it’s any consolation to her, even Hollywood legend Bette Davis went through this exact phase.) In Inang Yaya, Liza Lorena is again at her shining best and her character stands out not only because it is written well, but also because she is able to flesh it out in a style uniquely her own (think Oro, Plata, Mata and other memorable Liza Lorena performances: Miguelito, Ang Batang Rebelde, La Vida Rosa, etc.).

Also noteworthy are the performances of the other supporting cast members: Zoren Legaspi, Sunshine Cruz and Marita Zobel, who excels in all her scenes (her best is the bilo-bilo sequence – you’ll know what I mean when you see it).

The two girls – Tala Santos and Erika Oreta – are also acting gems and they complement each other in the film.

Tala, as the street-smart and spunky one, is perfect for the role and is very credible in her scenes where she has to display feistiness. Erika, fragile and sheltered, has the makings of a fine actress. You see this even in scenes where she only has to stay in the background and supposedly does not do anything. But she knows how to interact with her eyes and body movements.

Of course, the movie’s two directors obviously also know what they are doing because here is an excellent film product that recently received an A grade from the Cinema Evaluation Board. Inang Yaya is a simple, yet powerful tearjerker that is never cloying. If you intend to watch this movie – and hope you do – don’t forget to bring your hankies because you’ll need them... oh, plenty of them.

In my case, I’ve done all my crying as a baby and I don’t cry easily. Inang Yaya, however, still drove me to near tears. But it was more at the realization that the local movie industry is still capable of coming up with good films that espouse positive values that can make life better for all of us in this world. Inang Yaya is the best example.


Panyang said...

Dear Direk Pablo & Roni,
You guys are truly more than amazing! You’re not only a goodlooking couple (I saw you both on TV so you can’t deny it heheh) but one hell of a team as well. INANG YAYA is already a WINNER!!! I wonder if you also do comedies coz I really think that your kind of team is what Maricel’s show JOHN EN SHIRLEY needs. Something is wrong somewhere about the said show. That show will be better off with you in it as director and writer. Speaking of Maricel, I was able to catch her interview taken during the IY presscon on UNANG HIRIT this morning and I was really happy that she mentioned about ‘Yaya’s Day’. I just hope that there were congressmen or whatever watching and pick that up so that it would be official in the coming weeks or months. I’m like a broken record but I just really want INANG YAYA to be more than just a touching movie but an instrument for the betterment or upliftment of –in this case- the yayas therefore making the movie one of the most significant movies in the history. That’s kinda cool, is it not? Anyway, more good projects from you guys!

renz said...

Direk, sana may next movie ka with Maricel hehe. Galing ng tambalan niyong dalawa.

Yung writer dati ng Saan Darating Ang Umaga, may libro about her experiences as a single mom sa pag re raise ng kanyang SPECIAL CHILD (baka maka relate si Kris Aquino nito hehe).

Mukhang winner din ito like Inang Yaya. Dahil sa iyo, we were (and will be able) to see a different Maricel Soriano.