Cinemalaya review: Max Eigenmann deserves best actress win for '12 Weeks'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 15 2022 08:02 AM

A scene from '12 Weeks'
A scene from '12 Weeks'

When the Marawi siege broke out, Alice (Max Eigenmann) was the lead project head of a humanitarian mission of her NGO to help the evacuees in Iligan City. During that time, she suddenly had vomiting episodes in the morning. It dawned on her that, despite being a case of polycystic ovaries, a chain smoker and already 40 years old, she was actually pregnant. 

The father of Alice's child was a musician Ben (Vance Larena), much younger than her, a drunkard and prone to be abusive, but who wanted to be involved despite having broken off. While her mother Grace (Bing Pimentel) was very excited about her coming grandchild, it was to her close friend at work, Lorna (Claudia Enriquez), that Alice confided that she was planning to abort the fetus she was carrying.

Max Eigenmann's Alice was a strong woman who knew how to fend for herself. She grew up without her mother. She had a leadership position at work. She was fearless for her advocacies. She was in control of her relationships. However, pregnancy in her middle age shook this fortitude, making her unsure for the first time in her life. Eigenmann's approach to her character was strong but restrained, never histrionic. 

Alice had three women who had her back: Ben's cheerful younger sister Jen (Mikee Lim), her mother Grace (her real-life mother, the elegant Bing Pimentel), and her best friend Lorna (Claudia Enriquez in a scene-stealing turn). These interactions, on top of Alice's turbulent relationship with opportunistic jerk Ben (rascal-mode Vance Larena), made Eigenmann's performance richer and well-rounded. Best Actress nominations and awards are inevitable. 

This is the full-length film debut of director Anna Isabelle “Shine” Matutina, and she aimed to tell modern Filipinas that they and they alone should decide about their bodies, certainly not the men in their lives. Matutina told her unsettling story with gritty camera work and raw down-to-earth honesty. The initial abortion clinic interview scene may have been reminiscent of "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" (2020), but Matutina's story went well beyond that. 

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

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