Sunday, December 10, 2006

‘Inang Yaya’ commands attention, respect and involvement

By Nestor Torre

MARICEL SORIANO’S CURRENT STARRER, “Inang Yaya,” is one of her best thespic showcases ever. For this perceptive and finely crafted production (directed by first-timers Pablo Biglang-Awa and Veronica Velasco for Unitel), Maricel drops most of her signature acting ties, in favor of a simply but deeply felt portrayal that is luminous, affecting and inspiring to behold.

In the family drama, Maricel plays the “Mommy Yaya” of spoiled, English-speaking Louise (Erika Oreta), the daughter of yuppies portrayed by Sunshine Cruz and Zoren Legaspi.

They’re often busy with work and social obligations, so Maricel has been their daughter’s surrogate mom. Louise may be a hoity-toity brat, but she loves her yaya to bits.

Trouble is, Maricel has a daughter of her own in the province—Ruby (Tala Santos), who’s being cared for by her grandmother (Marita Zobel), and aches for her mother’s presence.

That’s the film’s central irony: Maricel is forced to earn money for her daughter by taking care of—and loving—somebody else’s child, while her own daughter grows up without a mother.

Yes, her basic needs are paid for, but there’s a hole in her heart that nothing and nobody can fill—aside from her hardworking mother, who perforce is unable to.

It’s a hurt as old as the movie hills, but “Inang Yaya” makes it especially painful by not going whole hog in the melodrama and tearjerker departments.

All of the movie’s hurting characters wear their pain on their sleeves, but they don’t beat themselves—and the film audience—black and blue and bathetic with it. Such restraint is admirable and exceedingly rare to see on the local screen.

In any case, the emotionally untenable situation changes when Maricel is forced to bring her daughter to live with her in her employers’ home.

Alas, the change is not necessarily for the better, as the two girls from both sides of the social divide bicker and fight for Maricel’s love.

Other problems intrude and obtrude, until one “inang yaya” doesn’t know how else to divide himself up to please all of the people who demand her attention and affection.

Yes, she makes the “right” decision in the end, but only after so much struggle and strife. And the viewer suffers and learns along with her.

This is Maricel’s movie, but interestingly enough, Sunshine Cruz also comes on strong in this production. And the two new child actresses who play Louise and Ruby turn in absolutely pitch-perfect performances.

This early, we bet that, come film awards time, they’ll win a slew of trophies as an ensemble act—together!

Beyond excellent performance, however, “Inang Yaya” commands attention respect and involvement as one of the better films of 2006.

Do yourself a favor and catch it soonest—among other beneficial effects, it will help restore your admiration for Filipino films.

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