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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 22, 2011

Yesterday Today Tomorrow Movie Review

WRITER-DIRECTOR JUN LANA’S Metro filmfest entry, “Yesterday Today Tomorrow” is much better than his recent sex-drama “My Neighbor’s Wife” that dragged a lot. This one is still quite lengthy and can stand some trimming, but the pacing is faster, the production values more glossy and lavish. It opens with a tribute to Ishmael Bernal’s 1989 “Pahiram ng Isang Umaga”, recreating the death scene of Vilma Santos in the arms of Eric Quizon, with Nadine Samonte and Joem Bascon now playing them. It turns out the classic film is being remade on TV, a practice so common these days on the idiot box.

The film’s plotline concerning several characters whose lives intertwine will remind you of Hollywood soaps of yesteryears like “Peyton Place” and “Imitation of Life” (both starring Lana Turner) that were big hits in its time but derided by critics for being sudsy melodramas. They’ve been re-evaluated in recent years, especially after they were re-issued on video, and are now considered as landmarks in popular cinema.

Like them, “Yesterday” is big and sprawling, with vivid, engaging characters. Lana examines their lives, secrets, passions, weaknesses, ambitions, defeats, struggles. The treatment is still melodramatic, falling short of true brilliance, but local viewers who go for this kind of dramatic fare will not be disappointed as the characters and their personal stories are all riveting, with the actors playing them generally delivering fine ensemble performances. They play characters who are not perfect but flawed, just like most of us, but the movie also deals with acceptance and forgiveness, human traits that make us move on and go on with our lives even after tragedy strikes.

The film offers portraits of several couple relationships. The most senior is that of the wheelchair bound tycoon Ronaldo Valdez and his second wife, Agot Isidro, who falls for a younger man, Dennis Trillo. Then there’s Maricel Soriano and ex-husband Gabby Concepcion, who has a new bride, Carla Abellana. Next is that of Jericho Rosales, Maricel’s workaholic younger brother who’s married to a former singer, Lovi Poe, who cannot totally forget her career. Last is that of Solenn Heussaff, who’s tired of her clingy boyfriend, Paulo Avelino, and attracted to a gym instructor, Dennis, who’s already her mom’s boy toy.

A big earthquake shakes up all these relationships and not all them are resolved happily. Agot confesses her sin to Ronaldo. Maricel and Gabby get together again after their daughter Eula Caballero is injured in the quake, but Maricel is not totally happy being her ex-husband’s new mistress. Jericho hates Lovi for leaving their son for a singing gig during the quake but he eventually learns to forgive her. Solenn learns about her mom’s liaison with Dennis and decides to distance herself from him. Their final scene in a gas station where there are no more lines exchanged and with them just staring at each other is quite moving.

The sterling performances of the good cast makes up for the inherent limitations of the material. Agot and Solenn are both splendid in their tear-drenched confrontation scene after Solenn learns of her mom’s liaison with Dennis. Solenn shows considerable promise even for someone without formal training in acting. Carla is so beautiful on screen and manages to hold her own in the scenes where Maricel insult and humiliate her, ditto for Eula Caballero as Maricel’s daughter who hates her controlling mom. It’s nice to see Maricel on the screen again but something seems to have changed in her facial expressions and even the way she delivers her lines. See the film and you’d see what we mean. She imparts a certain degree of bitterness and weariness but her plight doesn’t connect with us viewers on an emotional level. We understand it, but surprisingly, we aren’t touched.

The most effective among the ladies for us is Lovi Poe, who shines simply because she doesn’t exert much effort. In that emotional scene with Jericho where he shouts and screams at her, she remains silent all throughout then just slaps him, as if she’s telling him to stop all the histrionics as his kind of emoting is “effort na effort”.

Gabby also does well as the remorseful ex-husband, but Paulo Avelino has a thankless short role as the boyfriend dumped by Solenn who’s so bitter he mauls Dennis. It’s Dennis who’s the best among the actors.

Technical aspects are all way above average, with the cinematography glowing with a glitzy glamor you can only find in movies. The crucial earthquake scenes are also all convincingly staged. Kudos to Jun Lana for his deft handling of the big cast.