Even before all the brouhaha about Erik Matti’s Honor Thy Father’s MMFF disqualification from the Best Picture category, I was already set to watch this John Lloyd Cruz starrer immediately after seeing the trailer. There is something to be said about a film’s trailer moving me to tears and this was what it managed to do for me. I, for one, can safely say that the movie in its entirety will not disappoint fans expecting a compelling quality drama.
Egdar/Egay (John Lloyd Cruz) is a reformed criminal who turned his back on his former life for his family — his daughter Angel (Krystal Brinner) and wife Kaye (Meryll Soriano), a multi level marketing agent and a devotee of the Church of Yeshua, headed by Bishop Tony (Tirso Cruz III). When Egay and Kaye discover that they have been scammed by their networking firm, they don’t just lose all of their savings, they also become the targets of angry recruits wanting to get their money back. One particular couple, backed by powerful connections, threaten them and give them a deadline to produce $6 million or face deadly consequences. Broke and desperate, Egay is left with no choice but to seek the help of his brothers in pulling a job against a major target that places him and his entire family in even more danger.
I must say that going into the cinema, I was expecting a heavy drama film that showcases JLC’s dramatic skills. Instead, I found myself engaged in a quiet and gripping journey of a man who at first obviously doubted his ability to provide for his family, to a man who will stop at nothing to achieve the impossible because of his love for his wife and daughter.
From the beginning, the film managed to create tension that builds steadily as the film progresses. There was never a time when audiences won’t ask what will happen to Egay, to Angel, to Kaye? This was a testament to director Erik Matti’s excellent establishment of the story and the characters, as well as the cast’s believable portrayal in the story. From the principal characters to the supporting cast, not one failed to deliver on expectations. Audiences felt grief, distress, anger, frustration, tension and fear in all the right moments as if on cue. This was how engaging the storytelling was.
The acting was very subtle, but there was an underlying depth in the portrayals that spoke to the audience. Without too much words, and sometimes only with silence, the movie communicates its messages loud and clear.
The cinematography was amazing, especially the long shots, which reminded me of Lav Diaz films, which from framing alone are already works of art. The scoring, especially the acoustic instrumentals accentuated the dramatic elements of the movie and gave the audiences time to process their feelings about the film’s sequences.
Personally, I liked how the filmmakers localized the heist element of the film. Whereas in Hollywood, heist movies involve high tech devices, Pinoy movies have their own counterpart equipment — cheap explosives, makeshift flashlights and welding machines. That’s how Pinoys roll and for one, the effort behind the final outcome and the danger that it entailed actually helped the audience connect with the characters better.
All in all, the film in itself was a social commentary about the Filipino’s faith, which sometimes straddles the line towards fanaticism; the Filipinos’ unconditional love for family — the bond between husbands and wives, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons and brothers with their siblings, the type of bond that transcends reason and accepts even the direst imperfections. The film spoke about desperation, death and tragedy, real life, happy endings and the ability to dream for a better life.
Honor Thy Father while it banks on being the most “different” entry in the Metro Manila Film Festival is actually no different from the rest. It is a love story too, but it only differs in the approach and presentation. But leave no doubt that this is a must see for anyone who wants to feel inspired about Philippine cinema. This is the type of work that we Filipino filmmakers can still offer the world. And much like this film, I say this with quiet pride and confidence.