Cinemalaya review: Megastar shows mettle in 'Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 11 2017 11:54 AM

Ever since "Dear Heart" (1981), Sharon Cuneta has been one of the biggest movie stars of local show business. Unfortunately, her film career took a turn for the worse about ten years ago, and she did not even have a single movie for that much time. That is why this Cinemalaya indie film is very significant not only because it is her first indie film and first Cinemalaya entry, but more because it serves to mark the Megastar's comeback to the silver screen.

This drama-comedy was premised upon the legend of a "family that does not weep" that prevailed in the town of Tungalong. This eternally happy and lucky family was supposed to fulfill wishes and find lost things when you host them in your house. However, when the family disappeared from their town one day, Tungalong had a downturn in its onion harvest and its general fortunes.

Fast forward to the present, Cora de la Cruz once had a happy family life with her husband and two kids. However, this ideal life did not last. Because of disloyalty and disillusionment, the members of her family left her living alone in their house. She hired the homely Bebang, the daughter of her old househelp Lavinia, to be her new maid and companion.

One day, during one of their frequent alcohol drinking sprees together, desperate and despondent Cora decides to hire Bebang's Tiong Biboy to locate the four members of the legendary "Family that Does Not Weep" (Lakay Pedring and Baket Celia, and their children Amelia and Edsel), so she can host them in her house, improve her luck and get her family back together with her again.

The highlight of this film was the wacky comedy tandem of Sharon Cuneta and Moi Bien as Cora and Bebang. Cuneta mainly plays it straight, but delivers a number of punchlines herself. She can still do cute and delightful, especially in her comic drunkard scenes, or in that scene where she was eating pages off a book. She also proved that she still had her dramatic chops in her in a big emotional scene in the third act, where her level of anguish really jumped off the screen.

However, it was Moi Bien who got to do the downright silly and flamboyant comedy. Some of these crazy Bebang jokes came from completely out of nowhere, disconnected from the story, even treading on raunchy. But because of Bien's funny face and deadpan comic delivery, these gags still got a lot of laughs. I know this is Cuneta's film, but Bien stole it out from under the Megastar because of her shameless antics. Bebang's hilarious scene with the mannequin may just be what this film will be long remembered for.

Nino Muhlach practically played himself the way he portrayed Tiong Biboy. He never really became the character, so to speak. His character was not developed at all. All Bebang said was he was good in looking for lost things, and that was it, he was hired to do an impossible manhunt. How did Uncle Biboy ever locate these long lost people at all? How did he know where to look? All we see him do was go around aimlessly asking people to identify old photographs. Where did he get clear photographs of them at all?

The fantasy element did not fit well into the whole scenario. Mysterious things were noted about Pedring (Joe Gruta) and Celia (Flor Salanga), like sleeping for three days straight or sweeping mango leaves when there was no mango tree around, yet these events were never brought up again. How did Edsel (Kiko Matos) grow up to be such a boorish womanizing roughneck?

The sudden drastic change in the tone of the story in the third act was so unexpected, it was jarring. True, this was a big acting moment for Cuneta, but I felt it was unconvincing how the scenes were set up. Writer-director-editor Mes de Guzman was not able to create fluid transition of scenes, such that the film could feel like an episodic patchwork. Fortunately the effective performances, good will and chemistry of Cuneta and Moi Bien were there to save the whole project. 6/10

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