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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.

May 13, 2013

In Nomine Matris Film Review: Great Dancing But The Story Gets In The Way

‘IN NOMINE MATRIS’ is the first local movie to feature flamenco as part of the story. It could very well be our official introduction to this classical Spanish dance with its elaborate footwork, arm, hand and body movements, sometimes with castanets or a fan. The dancing in the movie ranges from good to great, but the story writer-director Will Fredo has wrapped around the dance sequences is not. Sometimes, you even get the feeling that the languid storytelling is actually just getting on the way of the contagious energy of all the dancing, which is played to the accompaniment of the wonderful music provided by Bob Aves.

Acclaimed flamenco dancer Clara Ramona makes her debut as an actress in this movie as Mercedes Lagdameo, the owner of a flamenco dance school who is putting up a dance show entitled “In Nomine Matris”. She also choreographed all the dance numbers in the movie and her fusion of flamenco and local folk dances like Pandanggo sa Ilaw and Singkil is nothing short of brilliant. She also registers strongly as the exacting dance teacher looking for the female dancer who’d play the lead in her show.

We’re not exactly a fan of flamenco but her dancing leaves us in awe. And not only that, she also nails her part and acts so effortlessly, delivering her lines with instinctive precision that she dominates all the scenes she is in. No wonder she got a best supporting actress nomination from the Urian for what is only her first try at acting.

The narrative line sadly comes in spurts, with the characters quite underwritten so you don’t fully sympathize with any of them. The lead character is supposed to be Mara (Liza Dino), who’s supposed to be estranged for some reason from her mom, Ava (Tami Monsod), a disabled former flamenco dancer herself. She has an axe to grind against her dad, a mayor (Leo Rialp), and we’re wondering why she’s asking him why he won’t marry her mom when she already knows very well that he’s married to his first wife.

Clara has two sons (Biboy Ramirez and Ed Gatmaitan) from two different fathers. Biboy grew up with her but Ed was taken by his own dad when he was about 10 to Spain and that’s where he grew up. When the movie starts, Ed has just returned to Manila. Both of them are in love with Liza, but the way their love story is developed on screen is some sort of fill in the blanks. Liza chooses to go quickly to bed with Ed and, as a consequence, she gets pregnant. When she’s chosen by Clara to be her lead dancer, she goes on doing all the strenuous rehearsals without telling anyone that she’s with child.

As a result, on the day of their big performance, she has a miscarriage on the way to the venue, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and ends up in a hospital instead. We guess the moral of the story, if it has one, is don’t be sluttish enough to hop into bed with someone without protection when you dream and aspire to be a great dancer. Liza’s character deserves what happened to her.

In fairness to Liza, she’s fairly good in all her dramatic scenes. And even more so in her dancing scenes. She manages to hold her own against the more seasoned Clara and the finale showing them dancing together in a beautiful pas de deux is splendidly mounted and performed.

The movie can definitely stand some trimming to make it tighter. Director Fredo seems to be too self indulgent at times, doing scenes that maybe good by itself but only bogs down the narrative flow. The best example is Tami Monsod dancing on a slab of meat that she’s supposed to cook as “bistek”. It’s good but it goes on and on. And what’s the point? We also get countless scenes of the MRT and the traffic-filled arteries of Metro-Manila that you want to exclaim: Enough already. If the movie would be re-edited to quicken the pacing and excise all the dragging scenes, we have no doubt it’ll definitely be more palatable to local audiences.