Film Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

Cineastes will have strong reason to patronize the Metro Manila Film Festival with a very special entry, “Honor Thy Father” starring John Lloyd Cruz, among others.

John Lloyd Cruz shaving his hair in "Honor Thy Father": a highly focused and multifaceted acting.

John Lloyd Cruz shaving his hair in “Honor Thy Father”: a highly focused and multifaceted acting.

The film is likely to dominate all other entries in terms of a familiar story given candid, if, heart-rending treatment by writer and director who came up with a riveting drama worthy of a cineaste’s time.

For another, the film is an education to millions of followers of actor John Lloyd Cruz who re-invents himself beyond “kilig” moments and comes up with a powerful performance out shadowing all his previous film appearances.

Indeed, Michiko Yamamoto’s script finds powerful expression in Eric Matti’s latest directorial challenge and it would have been a big loss if this entry didn’t make it to this festival which had seen better years.

The film opens in a day in a life of a hard-working couple (Cruz and Meryll Soriano) whose religious affairs are chronicled with seeming irony.

In the opening scenes, you see a stone-faced Cruz stoic as he watched a crowd singing worship songs and collectively waving their hands in frantic adoration.

Wife believes the Divine Providence will be with them even as she narrates a series of misfortunes that befell her family before this business endeavor that turned out to be a scam.

Indeed, the film has disturbing images that recalled true-to-life stories of people caught in ugly scenes as the scam rears its ugly head.

The worship scene in "Honor Thy Father" with a stoic Cruz unable to relate.

The worship scene in “Honor Thy Father” with a stoic Cruz unable to relate.

How the couple copes with this latest misfortune is the stuff of Yamamoto’s story. As it is, the film is really a simple story of how the color of money changes people and how it could hoodwink unsuspecting neighbors and how it could transform friends into brutal collection agents.

The powerful, if, multifaceted, acting of John Lloyd Cruz and the well-motivated ensemble of supporting actors (from Tirso Cruz III, William Martinez, Meryll Soriano, Yayo Aguila, Perla Bautista and Dan Fernandez, among others) are the film’s most outstanding asset aided in no small way by intelligent direction and by its subtle but equally poignant musical scoring.

As it is, “Honor Thy Father” is a redeeming and timely entry in the MMFF and a good reminder as any that money masquerading as profit isn’t everything.

That scene where people took turns jumping on the murky river to get their share of cash is indeed another masterful cinematic portrayal of another parable of evil as it lurks on men even in holy cloth and their followers.

That scene showing concerned brothers digging underground to find the source of cash is indeed a fitting symbolism called Lower Depths: how people go lower than their real worth to save a brother in distress.

Through it all, John Lloyd is brilliantly focused as he let go of layers of emotions as he copes with another family crisis.

Equally outstanding is the portrayal of Meryll Soriano as the wife who believes that the Divine Providence will find a way to save them. Until they come to terms with higher forms of evil.

John Lloyd Cruz with director Erik Matti and Reality Entertainment producer Dondon Monteverde.

John Lloyd Cruz with director Erik Matti and Reality Entertainment producer Dondon Monteverde.

The portrayal of Tirso Cruz III as the bishop is a spine-tingling one as he runs through a sermon for that day’s worship ritual. When he whispers to a desperate husband that he can part with some donations if it exceeds the target is a damming indictment of some religious groups who tend to look like a corporation and a private army.

This early, one predicts a best actor trophy for John Lloyd Cruz and a best supporting actor citation for Tirso Cruz III. Come to think of it, one cannot cite any member of the cast who has no well-defined moment in the film.

Surely, the film deserves its Grade A rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board.

“Honor Thy Father” produced by Reality Entertainment opens December 25 in all theaters.

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