by Richard Bolisay
▶︎ Even for non-Sharonians, there is palpable excitement in the prospect of seeing Sharon Cuneta in a small, independent movie at a festival whose major asset is its ability to attract droves of moviegoers, many of whom are young ones discovering new local films on their own. Cuneta, after all, still has her charms, and although life hasn’t been particularly kind to her career after her peak in the 80s, she has developed a sort of defense mechanism and created a self-image that mixes her incredibly sweet demeanor with the age and weight and other personal troubles that naturally plague big stars facing the sharp claws of time. When she laughs — and she laughs a whole lot in her interviews — one cannot disregard the fact that her sense of humor comes from pain, or with pain, displaying a spontaneity that makes her even more fascinating to watch. Time has humbled her, and one can only hope that this decision to do something different, to put herself in a less sophisticated milieu outside the comforts and predictability of her mainstream fare, would be one for the books.
It is, but unfortunately not for a good reason. Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluhadoesn’t move like a film, at least one with flow and coherence, but a collection of gags that seems intent only to showcase Cuneta’s comic timing. At some point one asks in frustration: Is this a sitcom? Why does it feel compelled to deliver laughs in every scene? How come it seems to have forgotten to tell a reasonable amount of its story? Is it going to get better? Sadly, one has to finish it to be able to say with certainty that it never gets anywhere. The motivation to complete the Family that Doesn’t Weep may be suggested, but her journey hardly feels convincing and compelling because the film is too busy showing off its comedy, so bent on adding personality to its characters that it loses important connections between its sequences, the result of which is a messy, confused, and completely disappointing picture. When the climactic scene finally takes place — the moment that is supposed to make the audience feel how great an actor Cuneta still is, the proof that this movie is a risk worth taking that she even serves as its producer, the reminder that one big scene generously given is not enough to forgive a movie of its blatant shortcomings — it does not come across as awe-inspiring but absolutely ridiculous. And then it becomes really sad. Sad because for a film that revels in jokes, it ends up being a big one. ***
Richard Bolisay is a film critic. This piece was published on his site Lilok Pelikula under "Dispatches from Cinemalaya 2017 (Part 1)," August 8 2017.