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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 20, 2016

Mano Po 7: Chinoy', An Entertaining Well Crafted Drama About Family Relationships That Touches Your Heart

‘MANO PO 7: CHINOY’ follows the same formula of past films in the franchise, notably that of a poor Chinese who gets rich and later has a problematic family life (like Eddie Garcia in the first “Mano Po” in 2002 where he won the MMFF best actor award, and Christopher de Leon in “Mano Po 2: My Home”.) Richard Yap as Wilson Wong is now the beleaguered Chinese patriarch and real estate magnate who rose from rags to riches in “Mano Po 7”.

But as we all know, wealth doesn’t necessarily equate with happiness. His wife Debbie (Jean Garcia) feels lonely and gets attracted to a younger man, Marco (Jake Cuenca). His eldest son, Wilson Jr. (Enchong Dee) doesn’t feel loved and turns to drugs. He forces his daughter Carol (Janella Salvador) to be a cellist when she wants to be a voice major. It’s the only small youngest daughter (Jana Agoncillo) who doesn’t have a problem of her own. Add to this Wilson’s elder brother, Johnson (Eric Quizon), who was ostracized by his parents for being gay.

Enchong and Janella are given subplots of their own. Enchong meets his love interest, Jocelyn (Jessy Mendiola), while he is in rehab. Janella meets her own love interest, Henry (Marlo Mortel), a classmate in music class who becomes a knight in shining armor when her professor (Kean Cipriano) tries to molest her. But we wish they were given more “kilig” scenes for the sake of their MarNella fans as their love story is so underdeveloped.

The movie starts with a big party scene, the 25th wedding anniversary of Wilson and Debbie, and ends with another big party scene, the grand debut of Carol who gets to deliver the film’s message. She says their family is not perfect since they all have misunderstandings, but they stick with each other. In the end, there is forgiveness and we see Wilson and Debbie several years later in an epilogue, old and gray, but still committed to each other.

“Mano Po 7” is quite slow moving and makes you feel you’ve seen it all before, but it’s fairly well crafted with good production values, from the glossy production design and other fine technical credits that are well handled by former indie director Ian Lorenos doing his first mainstream movie. You’d wish, though, that he’s more brisk in his storytelling. What really redeems the movie is the generally splendid acting of most of the actors. Enchong Dee has the flashiest role that requires him to rant and display an entire range of emotions from desperation and grief to love and joy, and he does it all quite convincingly even if the way his love story ends leaves much to be desired. As Mother Lily herself says, he’s underrated by ABS-CBN.

But it’s Jean Garcia who handles her role as the erring wife with much nuanced restraint even in her most melodramatic scenes, making her portrayal so heartfelt. Richard Yap’s performance is quite uneven. He does his rage and anger scenes well, but the scenes that need more internalization of emotions are wanting, especially his reunion scene with Eric Quizon who’s already a veteran and manages to convey his feelings without contorting his face but just quietly shedding a tear or two. Jake Cuenca as a man spurned twice gives excellent support in what’s really a very small role, handling all his scenes with much persuasion. All in all, it’s a fairly entertaining melodrama with scenes about family relationships that manage to touch your heart.