RacsOview: "In My Life" (2009)

The Story
"In My Life" was about this 50 or 60 something mother, named Shirley, living a monotonous life in the Philippines taking care of her grandchildren and working as a librarian. Her daughters and ex-husband is urging her to sell a place that she owned when she got separated. She then later found out that one of her daughter is leaving for Australia to work which lead her to go visit/live with her gay son, Mark, in New York. She crashed in her son's place, got a job, found a new flame, irritated her son, got lost, got a weird hair do over, irritated her son's patient boyfriend, found a new life, got her wish and all that jazz.

Mark is now living the life that he wanted: with his Filipino boyfriend, Noel, great job and close to his friends. But there was a downside, he was sick. But he kept it secret to his mother, only his close friends know, including his boyfriend. That was the turning point of the story. When Shirley found out that her son was sick, she got crazy mad at Noel for not telling her. She rooted everything that she thought about Noel to that incident. Talk about an irrational thinking mother.

Mark got better but in a weird turn of events he got hit by a car and died. Fuck yeah.

Why Love It?
Vilma Santos as Shirley was unsurprisingly great. You can give her a grocery list as a script and she can still make gold out of it. But there were times that I felt that she was just acting. It felt fake at times. But that said she was still superb. Especially in the last third of the movie where everything was emotional and crying. But it was not her that I was mighty impressed with. I was really enthralled by John Lloyd Cruz's performance as the they gay boyfriend Noel. He was subdued and kept everything inside of him. Even though he was catapulted with everything that could ruin him, he kept his composure, begged for a twist of emotions. He did not avoid confrontations, he faced it, but he just took all the punches and never give any hook, up until Mark died when he exploded at Shirley. That scene was well built up. It packed a mean wallop. The movie in itself was already an emotional mush, but that scene was hair raising clash of feelings. He was great, I was really really blown away. I daresay that this is his best acting work ever.

Another beauty to behold was the cinematography. Though it could be better, the work was a glossy delight. The scenes in New York made me wonder what it was like to live there and be there. It really made me want to save up and live in New York.

Why Hate it?
The story was a sappy, mushy, schmaltzy, emotional cliche. Though the story telling was good, no one can deny that it was typical Filipino film. Happy at first, with tons of cultural slapstick, then the "better" half was reserved to be a big pool of emotions and tears. Typical typical typical. They tried to hard to mask it from becoming another Sunday movie night extravaganza, but it still felt that way, but that said, it was still a good effort, nevertheless.

Luis Manzano was the weakest link in the threesome lead performances. A very weak link at that. He was not that bad. But the bar was raised so high by his two co leads that his work just felt really flat and uninspired. Plus, we all know that he was gay already, but sometimes it felt clown-ish.

Another thing I did not like about the movie was that there seems to be a little chemistry going on with the gay couple. They look cute, separately, but together it was like an act. It was not romantic. Have they not seen "Brokeback Mountain" where Ennis and Jack felt like a real couple? Mark and Noel "missed" each other and they just smacked. It felt like they were the gay couple avoiding to be physical with each other. I am not saying that they ham it up, but I feel something lacking between the two, they just feel like buddies.

What I really hate about the movie, was the uninspired and all over the place score. The score was not helping the scenes at all, it felt like it was drowning them.

In the End.
Strong performances was all it needed for the movie to work, at least two thirds of great performance. The movie worked. It could drive you to tears, it could make you laugh. Generic yes, but it was well made and it was sincere. I just wish that Filipino filmmakers would stop thinking that emotions = tears = ka-ching.

It was a good movie, a good step up for mainstream Filipino films. I am sure that this movie will touch Filipino lives in the Philippines and abroad, and I hope that it will touch lives beyond borders too.

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