MMFF review: 'Suarez, The Healing Priest' inspires but too earnest, defensive

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jan 02 2021 01:28 PM

MMFF review: 'Suarez, The Healing Priest' inspires but too earnest, defensive 1
John Arcilla as Fr. Fernando Suarez

As a teenager, Fernando (Jin Macapagal) discovered that he had the ability to heal when a cripple (Gina Pareno) stood up and walked after he prayed over her. He went on to graduate salutatorian from his local high school, and Chemical Engineering in Adamson University. However, much to his father's dismay, Fernando still followed his dream to become a priest. 

As Fr. Fernando Suarez (John Arcilla), he established a healing ministry which gained wide popularity by word of mouth from those he was able to help. With the help of Bishop Antonio Palang (Dante Rivero), Suarez established the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor on the remote island of Ilin in the diocese of Occidental Mindoro. 

He eventually gained plenty of wealthy sponsors who helped him build his church and provide basic utilities to the poor community of Ilin. However, at the same time, he was also gaining a lot of enemies among Catholic church leaders who wanted to stop his healing sessions. There were even attempts to ruin his good name. 

Director Joven Tan created a simple melodramatic biopic narrative about the life of Fr. Suarez, with some testimonials of successful healing. If the storytelling had been straightforward and basic, this film had been entertaining to watch because of the numerous famous actors and actresses on board to play supporting and cameo roles throughout his film. 

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Tan used an investigative television show "Truth Be Told," with host Alice Marcelino (Alice Dixson) and her reporter Robert (Mario Mortel), to tell the story. There were also flashbacks of the younger Fr. Suarez in his hometown Botong, with his parents (Rita Avila and Ricardo Quan), and with high school friend Sonia (Michelle Vito).

There was a revealing inside look into one meeting of bishops who were discussing about Fr. Suarez and his healing masses and activities. While there were those who supported him (Leo Martinez and Jon Achaval), there were also those who were very vehemently against him (Joonee Gamboa and Noel Trinidad). 

One of the reasons for the bishops' resistance was the controversial testimony from Canadian priest Fr. Jeff Shannon (Troy Montero), who allegedly witnessed Suarez bring a person back to life. Another major blow against Suarez was the damaging accusation of impropriety levied on him by a young man whose parents were played by Rosanna Roces and Allan Paule. 

This film was a pleasant watch overall, but a little too earnest, too defensive, too idealistic. The whole production had the vibe of a religious program on television, even ending with an uplifting healing prayer from the real Fr. Suarez himself. This film was made for inspiration, and for Catholics looking for some in these difficult times, "Suarez" gave some.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."

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