FILM REVIEW: ANAK

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The Plot: This is the story of a mother’s agony and her desperate attempt to piece back the broken fragments of her shattered family.

Josie (Vilma Santos) return to Manila after working as a Domestic Helper in Hong Kong for ten years. Her beloved husband, Rudy (Joel Torre), who died five years ago, was good-natured, loving and kind but was not a good provider. She was forced out of financial need to go abroad and slave under abusive employers in order to provide a better life for the family.

But her happy expectation of a joyful reunion with her beloved children is dashed to peices when she finds that her absence, her family has fallen apart: her first-born, Carla (Claudine Barretto), has run loose and wild for lack of guidance; her son, Michael (Baron Geisler), is in deep trouble in school; and her youngest, Daday (Sheila Junsay), doesn’t even know who she is.

Josie is a stranger to her own family. She tries to maintain a happy and cheerful exterior while desperately trying to reach out to her children but they continue to repel her tender appeals. Ironically, it is Daday, her youngest who grew up without knowing her, who first opens her own heart and embraces her into the family.

Unknown to Josie, her two elder children harbor a deep and painful resentment toward her. In their minds, their mother does not care for them. She had left for abroad even when they cried and begged her not to, and she did not even bother to come home to be with them for their father’s funeral.

But Carla and Michael do not know their mother’s side of the story. Josie was devastated upon hearing of Rudy’s death but she had been unable to go home because her employers cruelly kept her locked inside the house. And she had endured another five years of hard labor knowing that her family would need money then, more than ever.

Josie’s problem, despite all her desperate efforts, become worse and worse. She loses all of her savings in a failed business venture, Michael is kicked out of school, and worst of all, Carla becomes pregnant by one of her many lovers. Josie is horrible aggrieved when Carla, in a fit of helpless fury, throws at Josie’s face all her years of pent-up anger and resentment. She blames Josie for the aimless, ruined life. Josie was never here to give her love, she says, that is why she seeks it in the arms of men.

Finally, Josie admits defeat. She has failed bitterly in her role as a mother. What is the right thing for her to do? Should she stay or should she go? Will she have the courage to try to reclaim her family, or will she take the easier way out and return to her familiar life in Hong Kong? – Dennis Harvey, Variety Magazine March 2001 (READ MORE)

In their minds, their mother does not care for them. She had left for abroad even when they cried and begged her not to, and she did not even bother to come home to be with them for their father’s funeral. But Carla and Michael do not know their mother’s side of the story. Josie was devastated upon hearing of Rudy’s death but she had been unable to go home because her employers cruelly kept her locked inside the house. And she had endured another five years of hard labour knowing that her family would need money then, more than ever. Josie’s problem, despite all her desperate efforts, becomes worse and worse. She loses all of her savings in a failed business venture, Michael is kicked out of school, and worst of all, Carla becomes pregnant by one of her many lovers. Josie is horrible aggrieved when Carla, in a fit of helpless fury, throws at Josie’s face all her years of pent-up anger and resentment. She blames Josie for the aimless, ruined life. Josie was never here to give her love, she says, that is why she seeks it in the arms of men. Finally, Josie admits defeat. She has failed bitterly in her role as a mother. What is the right thing for her to do? Should she stay or should she go? Will she have the courage to try to reclaim her family, or will she take the easier way out and return to her familiar life in Hong Kong? – Star Cinema (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “Naku, sigurado kaming maglalaway ang mga Noranian kapag napanood nila itong “Anak” ni Vilma Santos. Paano’y bagay na bagay din kay Nora ang papel na ginampanan ni Ate Vi. pero dito sa “Anak”, walang pakundangan niyang inagaw ng tuluyan kay Ate Guy ang korona, pati na nag trono at setro sa pagganap bilang tsimay…Halos tatlong dekada na naming napapanood si Vilma Santos sa pelikula, at alam namin mahusay siyang aktres. Kaya naming inakala na wala nang mapipiga pa sa kanya. Pero nagulat kami sa ipinakita niyang husay sa pelikulang “Anak” ng Star Cinema. Isa na marahil ito sa pinakamahusay na pagganap na aming nasaksihan mula sa isang Vilma Santos, at sa kahit na sino pang aktres, kasama na sina Nora Aunor at Elizabeth Oropesa…Naghudyat din ang “Anak” sa pagsibol ng isang bagong Vilma na hindi de-kahon ang ginagampanang papel. Nasanay na kasi kaming mapanood siya bilang magandang kabit, sosyal na asawa o isang modernong nanay…walang duda na ang pinakamapuwersang panghatak ng “Anak” ay ang galing ni Vilma. Lutang na lutang ang husay niya, mula simula hanggang wakas ng pelikula. Pero may tatlong eksenang mahirap malimutan. Una, yong tagpo kung saan umiihit siya ng tawa dahil sa kababawan nilang magkakabarkada, hanggang mauwi ang kanyang mga ngiti sa iyak dahil naalala niya ang sariling problema sa mga anak. Pabulosa rin para sa amin ang sumbatan nila ni Claudine sa bandang huli ng pelikula. Ke mereseng magmukhang kobra ang kanyang leeg, sanhi ng nag-iigtingan ugat dahil sa galit, at magkangiwi-ngiwi ang kanyang mukha sa tindi ng pagtatampo, wala siyang pakialam. Nakakaloka rin yung eksena nang pumasok siya sa kuwarto ni Claudine, at makitang may lalaking nakahiga sa kama nito. Ang galing-galing mo talaga, Ate Vi!…” – Gypsy Baldovino, Kabayan (READ MORE)

“…I’ve seen Vi act well in several movies. She has a volume of work which I truly admire. “Anak”, though, takes the cake. Perhaps, because of its universal appeal…I cried, especially in her confrontation scene with Claudine. That scene which shows her enumerating the hard work she had to go through just to be able to give her and her siblings a good life….” – Ethel Ramos, Malaya, 11 May 2000 (READ MORE)

“…The slick production is turned into art by its star Vilma Santos. Her magnetic star quality makes her look so wrong for the part and yet she makes it all her own. She’s a natural comedianne and a great tragedienne-her look of resignation is heartbreaking. Vilma discards the glittering clothes and make-up for Anak, but she still looks youthful. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the sensitive young actor playing her son would go on to play her leading man a few years from now…” – Dennis Ladaw (READ MORE)

“For ten consecutive years from 1995 to 2004, the Philippines submitted films for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Oscar Awards. But up to this point of film history, we remain in the list of countries who has never won nor nominated for this award…In 2000, the country’s entry was Anak (Child), directed by Rory B. Quintos from the script of Raymond Lee and Ricardo Lee. It is the story of a Filipina domestic helper (Vilma Santos) in Hongkong who returns to Manila after 10 years and is greeted with her children’s resentment because their father died during their mother’s absence. She buckles down to pick up and string back together her shattered family…” – FAP (READ MORE)

“A topical dilemma for Filipinas — whether to take lucrative long-term jobs abroad and provide for their families’ future or stay home and play a more active role in their children’s lives — propels “Anak”, femme helmer Rory B. Quintos’ seventh feature. Vivid hook for domestic conflict makes this well-acted drama compelling until hitherto restrained approach succumbs to bathos in the last quarter. Offshore, best prospects outside fest circuit lie in TV sales. Bubbly, indomitable Josie (Vilma Santos) is thrilled to be returning home at last, having spent several years as a live-in nanny for Hong Kong yuppies — and enduring some serious mistreatment in that capacity. Loaded with presents and savings to invest in a business scheme, she gets a big welcome from everyone but her own children. Latter three have grown up without her, suffering especially since their father died in a workplace accident. While little Daday (Shiela May Alvero) and teenage Michael (Baron Geisler) soon get over their initial awkwardness, eldest offspring Carla (Claudine Barretto) remains bitterly resentful toward mom’s perceived abandonment. She goads Josie with serial boyfriends and open hostility before running away, straight into drug-abusive squalor. Limning complex emotions with subtlety and humor, pic resists melodrama until the dam abruptly burst after 90 minutes; ill-judged pileup of crying scenes, plot crises and more crying ensues. Josie’s final decision to leave for H.K. once again makes little sense, beyond its providing an excuse for “Anak’s” fourth hysterical-sobbing-at-the-airport sequence. That’s too bad, since early reels observe parent-child relationships with considerable delicacy. Quintos’ fluid handling of potentially claustrophobic, mawkish material underplays script’s more obvious gambits until they overwhelm pic. Veteran local star Santos is in fine form, while Barretto lends impressive shading to what might have been a stock sexy “bad girl” role. Tech package is polished.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety Magazine March 19 2001 (READ MORE)

“The Philippine president praises the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) as hero. This is nothing more than delusive. The reality of OFWs is almost slavery exporting. In this film, Josie, the mother, was locked in the house while her master and his family were on long vacation. That was why she could not attend her husband’s funeral! Total remittance from the OFWs, who send most of their earnings from such humiliating work, amounts nearly US$ 10B annually. This film raises a serious issue in Philippine society, however, I think most of Philippine politicians may not even recognize how desperate a country which relies on exporting their people for such slavery jobs. They leave their family because they love family. Mother leaves her children whom she wants to embrace always, and works for them sacrificing everything. Children feel they are abandoned by their mother even they know their daily life is supported by her remittance. Mother’s love ends up with broken relationship. What a tragedy! The life of the family looks not bad in Philippine standard. In fact their house is large enough even in Japanese standard. However, their father, who looks a good man, do not have stable job, if not minimal income which is hard to afford their life. In fact, even working abroad as a maid is a kind of status. I don’t understand why the mother does not cancel going to Hong Kong and choose yet another life, to live with her family with less income, after reconciliation with her daughter. Unless Filipinos decide to quit working overseas for little money, I think this country would not become better. By the way, this is the first film I saw Vilma Santos. Her performance is superb. Few actresses can act both comical and serious sides of the same character” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“There are drawbacks in Anak, small aspects that could be left out or be more emphasized; but forget that petty cash because…Just as I had forgotten the reason for making movies, that not all movies are justified merely as a moneymaking device where profit, spin off products and the inclusion of at least one major Hollywood movie star are dominant ingredients in the narrative formula; just as I had misplaced the argument for film production itself, Anak puts it all right again. Quintos peels away every superfluous non-significant element and leaves us with a nucleus so pure, so strong and so universally true that it touches all of us. Separation from loved ones, sacrifices and the complexity of family relations are key components of the narrative that, propelled by brilliant acting, drives this highly realistic and touching story forward. And realism and emotions are clues to what makes Anak such a gripping tale. In other, more conventional, ‘touching’ films I often feel left of

“I absolutely loved this film! At first, I was a bit skeptic, but man….what great acting!! It seemed so real…not far from reality. Claudine did a great job as the snot nose brat of a daughter and Vilma was awesome as the loving, but misunderstood mother. It’s a great movie…go rent it!” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“Where to begin? Anak (or ‘The Child’ as it is known in the West) is an absolutely amazing movie, a movie so powerful that it deserves to be watched by everyone. The Story is set around Josie and her family, Many years ago – Josie had to leave her family and become a domestic over-seas so she that she could provide money to support her family, when Josies husband dies, Josie returns to her family to take over her job as mother, but when she returns, her family is anything but loving and welcoming. The acting in this movie is magnificent, I had never heard of Vilma Santos until I watched Anak, however after seeing it I had to rent out some of her other movies, the emotion shown by Vilma, and the other actors is amazing and at times, you really can find yourself believing that this family is real. There were times in the movie I laughed, times I cried, but I loved every second of it, and it blows almost every Hollywood movie out of the water. Anak just goes to show that a movie does not need to have sex, drugs & violence, and also not be a Children’s movie to be excellent and a must-see for the entire family.” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…Mas mahusay para sa amin ang pagkakaganap ni Vilma Santos sa “Anak” kaysa sa “Bata, Bata…Paano ka Ginawa?”. Hindi malayong humakot na naman siya ng award rito…But the film still belongs to Vilma, who goes through an entire spectrum of varied emotions as Josie, mula sa katuwaan at excitement niya sa pagbabalik sa Pilipinas (natural na natural ‘yung pagiging aligaga niya habang namamahagi ng pasalubong sa mga anak niya), ang disappointment niya nang matanto niyang hindi na niya kilala ang mga batang binalikan niya, hanggang sa finally ay sumambulat siya sa tagpong pinagsasampal na rin niya si Claudine at pinalalayas. It’s a bravura sequence and the performance is magnificent…” – Mario E. Bautista (READ MORE)

“…Actually, this film does not only tug at your heartstrings. It also tries to escape every nerve ending in your body. But despite its excesses, “Anak” is still a quality movie. It is a very well-made commercial film with a heart. This movie has three things going for it: a relevant subject matter , its thorough research and the wonderful performance of Vilma Santos. In this film, Vilma goes through a wide range of emotions from a spoiler of a mother to one who has had it with her ingrate of a daughter – and from a fun-loving barkada (to fellow domestic helpers Amy Austria and Cherry Pie Picache) who knows how to appreciate the simple joys of life to that of a breadwinner willing to slave it out for the sake of her children. This may not be a classic Vilma Santos performance in the tradition of “Sister Stella L”, “Relasyon”, and “Bata, Bata…Paano ka Ginawa?”, but it is definitely an inspired one. In fact, no other actress could have pulled it off the way she did – marvelously, if I may say…” – Butch Francisco, People’s Journal May 26 2000 (READ MORE)

“..Vilma, as expected, turns in another “winning” performance (far better than her “Bata, Bata…Paano ka Ginawa?” acting) while Claudine is a big revelation as the rebellious daughter, so hateful (especially when she’s answering back at her mother) that when, in the final confrontation scene, Vilma slaps her and throws clothes at her and, okay, okay, “Lumayas ka sa bahay kung ayaw mo akong makita,” the crying audience erupted into an approving applause…” – Ricardo F. Lo, The Philippine Star May 09 2000 (READ MORE)

f with an awkward, almost embarrassed, feeling of having been tricked to tears by elementary storytelling mechanisms. But the feeling of a natural, almost improvised acting in Anak, conveys everyday life as well as the intense moments with an exceptional credibility which makes the overall narrative so strong it should leave its audience feeling that this is one of the primary reasons for storytelling.” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…Ang international fame, bilang Best Actress, ay nakamit ni Vilma in 1999, when her Star Cinema headliner Bata … Bata … Paano Ka Ginawa? – directed by Chito Rono – was entered as competition entry sa Brussels Film Festival. Released in 1998, Bata won for Vilma the Best Actress honors at the Star Awards, FAP and Gawad Urian, as well as the Best Performance award from the YCC-Film Desk. Dahil nahalal na alkalde ng Lipa City sa Batangas si Vilma Santos-Recto (she married then Batangas Congressman, now Senator Rafael ‘Ralph” Recto in December 1992), naging mas madalang ang paggawa niya ng pelikula. Pero hindi pa rin magmimintis si Vilma na manalo ng acting trophy, kapag din lang may panlabang pelikula, as in 2000 when she did Star Cineman’s Anak by Rory Quintos. Nanalo siyang Best Actress sa Star Awards…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

“…Sa umpisa pa lang ng pelikula, kinurot na ang puso ko. Damang dama mo ang pagkasabik ni Josie na muling makita’t makapiling ang mga anak, ang pagtataka’t hindi ipinahalatang pagdaramdam ng hindi siya kilala ng mismong bunsong anak. Natural na natural ang dating ng acting ni ate Vi sa eksenang hindi siya magkandaugaga sa pag-asikaso ng mga bisita sa kanyang welcome party pati na rin sa pagmumudmod niya ng mga pasalubong. Mararamdaman mo ang pagmamahal na ipinapakita niya sa mga anak bilang pagpupuno sa kanyang mga pagkukulang noong mga panahon na wala siya sa piling nila, kasama na ang pagtitiis at pagwawalang bahala sa kabastusan ng panganay na si Claudine na sa totoo lang ay napakahusay din. Nakiiyak at nakidalamhati ako kay Josie sa bawat sakit at hapdi ng kalooban na kanyang nadarama. Umabot sa sukdulan ang pagkahabag ko kay Josie at matinding galit naman ang nadama ko kay Claudine sa paglapastangan sa kanyang ina. Halos nadurog ang puso ko ng isa-isahin na ni Josie ang mga paghihirap at pagtitiis na kanyang pinagdaanan. Mahirap nga ba sa mga anak ang intindihin kung bakit kinakailangan lumayo ang isang magulang lalo pa’t ang ina sa kanyang mga mahal sa buhay para sa kapakanan ng pamilya? Maaaring oo, at maaaring hindi. Bagamat kailangan ng mga anak ng kalinga at gabay ng kanilang magulang sa kanilang paglaki, but the choice is theirs. They do and they can understand but the problem arises when a child refuses to understand the situation. Marahil dahil sa ako ay isang Overseas Filipino Worker kung kaya, kaya kong makarelate sa pelikula, but it doesn’t really matter you’re an OFW or not. Anak is a picture for everyone and it has successfully conveyed the importance of family being the basic unit of our society. In general, Anak is a well acted movie sa pangunguna ni Ms. Vilma Santos. No other actress can give justice to the role of Josie but Vilma herself, and that is setting aside my being a solid Vilmanian, at kahit pa sabihin na para akong sirang plaka…” – Eddie Lozano (READ MORE)

“…DID you know that as early as the ’80s, nagsusulat na ang award-winning scriptwriter na si Ricky Lee tungkol sa plight ng ating mga OFW (overseas Filipino workers)? He started with “Miss X”, filmed in Amsterdam in The Netherlands with now Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos in the title role. For an entire month, namalagi sa Amsterdam si Ricky kasama ang cast and crew ng pelikula. Naging simula ang Miss X ng ilang collaboration sa pagitan nila ng equally award-winning director na si Gil Portes. Ang next movie together nila ni direk Gil was “Carnival In Rio”, which was filmed naman in Rio de Janeiro. Alma Moreno, who was at the height of her popularity as a bold star then, played the lead role. Then came “’Merika”, na isinapelikula naman sa New Jersey and New York with Nora Aunor playing the lead role. “Because of that movie,” ani Ricky, “I was able to explore New York, the city of my dream. After my travels to all these places, I wrote (direk) Gil a letter, thanking him for the rare chance he gave na marating ang mga lugar na ito na ’di ko Inakalang mararating ko,” pahayag ni Ricky. For Anak, which was filmed in Hong Kong, Ricky had the chance na makatrabaho muli si Vilma sa ibang bansa muli. This time, na-renew, wika nga, ang kanilang bonding. Ricky remembered that because Anak was a blockbuster, binigyan ng Star Cinema ng malaking bonus si Ate Vi. Nagulat daw siya when one day, he received a P40,000 check from the actress. Contribution daw ang pera ni Ate Vi sa isinagawa niyang workshop for aspiring scriptwriters….” – Nel A, The People’s Tonight, Aug 31 2005 (READ MORE)

“…Damangdama namin ang panonood,naluluha-luha na kami sa mga eksenang napapanood.Grabeng lines, nanggagaling sa puso kaya tumatagos sa puso. Pagdating sa pagliltanya ni Ate Vi nang tuhog na tuhog, yung makapanindig-balahibong linyang marami siyang pinalampas na pagkalam ng sikmura para lang maipadala niya ang pambili sa kanyang mga anak.Ibang klase. Masikip sa dibdib, tahimik kang luluha dahil sapul na sapul ka ng kanyang pagganap. Sa tunay na buhay nga nama’y mas masakit at nakakakuha ng simpatiya ang paimpit na pag-iyak, at yun si Josie na ginagampanan ni buong ningning ni Ate Vi. Walang pakialam ang aktres sa magiging hitsura niya sa telon. Sinunod ni Ate Vi ang kagustuhan ng direktor.Ginawa niya ang hinihingi ng papel na maging deglamorize para mas maging makatotohanan ang kanyang pagbibigay buhay. Sa kanyang pag-iyak ay masisilip mo ang nagagait din niyang mga ugat sa leeg at kamay niya. Sa eksenang talagang sinusumbatan na niya si Claudine, she still amazes us on how she delivers the lines with varying degree of intensity na naaayon sa bawat bitiwang salita. Alam namin at ng lahat kung gaano kahusay ang isang Vilma Santos, pero sa pelikulang ito ay ipinakita niya, she’s not just an instinctive actress,she’s soooo brilliant. Maririnig mo ang kaliwa’t kanang singhutan at sipunan ng mga katabi ko sa upuan.Hindi ko sila pinapansin dahil tahimik din akong nagpapahid ng luha para hindi mahalata. Bakit sila lang ba ang marunong umiyak? Remarkable din ang akting na ipinakita ni Claudine…Anak grossed Php 14 Million on its opening day.Umabot ng Php 200 Million na nationwide box-office take,ranking number 2 sa box-office champion of all times…” – Willie Fernandez (READ MORE)

“…If this movie is to be judged by the amount of tears shed by various actors during the performance and the amount of tears which are expected to be shed by the audience, then I think this film can be rated in the five gallons category rather than that of the five stars. Vilma Santos, as expected, effectively portrayed a role of a mother trying to reach out to her children who at first sees her as a stranger. The efforts and the hardships she acted relate the whole theme of the film. Claudine Barretto, on the other hand, though equipped with natural acting prowess, was not that believable and was disgusting at some moments. In particular, I would like to single out the performance of Baron Geisler. He didn’t have a whole lot lines in the movie but the impact of his facial expressions and body language were very powerful. As what said a while ago, this film was an inspired picture from Aguilar’s “Anak.” Every single line of the song pertains to the story of Josie and her children. The happiness and sacrifices of parents when their child is born were both seen as Josie showed the same feeling for her children upon seeing them as well as the sufferings she experienced in Hong Kong in order to give her family enough money for living. The line “Nagdaan pa ang mga araw at ang landas mo’y naligaw, ikaw ay nalulong sa masamng bisyo,” was also illustrated as Carla gets involve in men, sex and drugs and showing her mother her hatred for her. But all stories that end well, Carla repented and asked for forgiveness and vice-versa. This scene was literally the portrayal of the line “At and iyong mata’y biglang lumuha ng ‘di mo napapansin. Nagsisisi at sa isip mo’y nalaman mong ika’y nagkamali…” – Rodel Guerrero(READ MORE)

“…Other important movies of the year 2000:…”Anak” (Star Cinema). The year’s most successful move sometimes leans toward the mawkish, the result perhaps of its director’s protracted work on TV where the success of productions is determined by how well they can populate an episode with bathos and melodrama the better to maintain the ratings and keep the advertisers coming. But in honest look at the domestic wages of migrant labor and the utterly moving performances of Vilma Santos and Baron Geisler, it is a signigicant movie…” – Lito Zulueta, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan 01, 2001 (READ MORE)

“…You don’t have to be an overseas Filipino worker, or be related to one, to be moved by “Anak,” the latest Star Cinema production which is, fittingly enough, billed as its Mother’s Day offering. The movie was conceived and marketed as Star Cinema’s tribute to overseas workers. But anyone who is or has even been a parent, will find many echoes of their own experiences in “Anak.” It is this emotional resonance with the universal tug of war between parent and child that, I think, allows “Anak” to transcent its focus on the OFW’s and appeal to wider, general audience. And yet, there was something very right, very fitting, in the decision to hold “Anak’s” world premiere in Hong Kong, among the community of domestic workers whose ‘story” is told in the movie. The screening was peppered with moment of laughter and gasps of recognition. And by own reckoning, just 15 minutes into the movie, as the joyous homecoming of returning Hong Kong DH Josie, played by Vilma Santos, is shadowed by her re-entry problems, the tears start flowing. By the time Josie finally confronts her rebellious daughter played by Claudine Barretto, the sniffles and sobs that punctuated the quiet of the Cine Metro Theater had grown into a teary crescendo. It was, indeed, cathartic. And if I, a journalist and working mother who had left her family behind for a mere weekend, was assuaged by pangs of guilt and regret, how could it not resonate in the most powerful way with the proud and hardworking Pinays of Hong Kong?…Perhaps this is something we need to realize here, especially among the bleeding hearts and do gooders crying out for government to “do something” about the phenomenon of migrant labor. The struggle to secure the rights of overseas workers has shifted to the OFW’s themselves. Only when they assert themselves as a political force can they win respect and power and thereby determine and direct their own fate and welfare.

Critical to this development are movies like “Anak,” that manage to move beyond sterotypes to paint both the good and bad side of migration, demonstrating the rewards and growth attendant to working abroad, even if “only” as a domestic, as well as the loneliness that assails everyone, or the abuse and exploitation that befall some. “Anak” is particularlay effective in that it strides for balance and realism. Scriptwriters Ricky Lee and Raymond Lee (no relations) told of basing and validating the situation in the movie on the real life experiences of Filipina domestics in Hong Kong, though much of the film takes place here. Director Rory Quintos is to be commended for the light and unobtusive tough she gives to what could be melodramatic material. The ensemble acting is also remarkable, with Claudine Barretto giving a fairly impressive turn as the troubled and self-destructive daughter, and Amy Austria and Cherry Pie Picache delightful as the earthy DH friends of the beleaguered Josie. Still, this is one movie that truly belongs to Vilma Santos, who is even more affecting and effective here than in “Bata, Bata…Paano Ka Ginawa?” for which she harvested many awards. As Josie, she is feisty and bubbly, steely and sof-hearted, the combination of grit and goodness that is the bedrock of every Pinay mother’s heart. Before the screening, she told the audience that after making the movie, she was more than ever determined to pursue a career in government to better help the OFWs. But watching her as Josie, I thought, it is not as a governement official that an actor like Vilma best helps people. it’s precisely as an actor, giving life to women like Josie and “standing up for the character,” that Vilma and artists like her help us understand people and take them into our hearts.” – Rina Jimenez-David, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 10, 2000 (READ MORE)

Love-Hate drama between “martyr” mother and “rebel” daughter – Star Cinema should be commended for deciding to make a film about a Filipino overseas contract worker who periodically leaves her family to ears much-needed dollars abroad. “Anak: is a bittersweet account of a mother’s dilemma: the money she brings in assures her children’s physical well-being, but her absence during their crucial growing years leaves them with a shaky foundation that takes its terrible toll on them, asw well as on her, when she finally decides to come home. Rory B. Quintos’ films hits intense emotional highs, especially in scene involving its veteran lead player, Vilma Santos, who feels her role so much that she comes across as a symbol of all mothers torn between their love for their children, and their need to earn money by working abroad to give their children a better life. Her pain is exarcerbated when they show their resentment over her long absences, as though she didn’t suffer from the separation as much as or even more than they. And everything comes to a head when eldest child (Claudine Battetto) flaunts her wayward life and vices in her mother’s face, to hurt her as much as she feels she has been hurt by her “uncaring” parent.

In addition, the film gains in significance by touching on some less personal issues related to the huge problems of our overseas contract workers and the families they leave behind: terrible working conditions, psyhological trauma, low self-image, the wearing down of traditional values, etc. Unfortunately, the production’s decision to focus on the mother-daughter conflict deprives the movie of enough time to dramatize these issues in an insightful way. Thus, the interesting characters played by Amy Austria and Cherry Pie Picache, who are cast as Vilma’s worker-friends, are glossed over and mainly used for “color” and as shoulders to cry on. This is a pity, because they too have compelling, instructive stories to tell, which could have lent greater texture and substance to the film’s handling of the complex OCW syndrome. Instead, the movie keeps harping on the love-hate drama between “martyr” mother and “rebel” daughter, with Claudine’s character sinking deeper into her pit of anger and recrimination. All too soon, the pattern becomes tedious, and we keep hoping that the movie discovers other, more productive dramatic and thematic avenues to explore. To make things worse, Claudine acts her guts out in her “hurt and angry” scenes, but she can’t seem to rise to the thespic occassion.

This may be because her character’s acts of rebelliosness are presented in too strident a fashion, making it difficult for the young actress to be truly sensitive to her character’s core of genuine pain. It’s also possible that Claudine has been acting too much of late, what with her daily TV soaps that require her to play triplets, so she has prescious little that’s fresh and real to give to her role in this film. Whatever the reason, she falls short of the mark, particularly in her demanding confrontation scenes with Vilma. For her part, the veteran actress is given major dramatic challenges in this movie, and she meets them with her intensity and commitment. More, she embraces them, pushing her scenes “beyond acting,” into emotional reality that is truly moving. If only her young costar had been as insightful, sensitive and giving… So, we thank Star Cinema for the good things in “Anak,” but we regret its deficiencies, which not even a Vilma Santos can fully compensate for. More films on our OCW’s are needed to truly do justice to their immense problems, and to their quiet heroism for love ones and coutry. – Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 14, 2000 (READ MORE)

Ensemble Acting – Besides Vilma Santos and Claudine Barretto as the clashing mother and daughter in Star Cinema’s currently-showing smash-hit drama ”Anak,” there are other actors in the Mother’s Day offering who shine in their own rights with sterling performances. There’s Cherry Pie Picache as Vilma’s fellow domestic helper in Hong Kong, acting her part with natural ease and spontaneity. And Amy Austria, also a domestic helper, whose character is a contrast to those of Vilma’s and Cherry Pie’s. Or Baron Geisler who’s a revelation as Vilma’s teenage son gone astray. Or newcomer Sheila Mae Alvero as Vilma’s youngest child rendered a stranger to her own mother by the mother’s long absence while working in Hong Kong. Directed by Rory B. Quintos from a screenplay by Ricky Lee and Raymond Lee, “Anak” is the best example of ensemble acting where all the performers seem to move to the same tune, as if in a symphony. Star Circle member Leandro Muñoz also gives a credible performance as the guy who doesn’t take advantage of the wayward Claudine, instead convin-cing Vilma of his good intentions toward her daughter. Joel Torre, as the three children’s dead father, appearing in poignant flashbacks, comes on as alive as the “live” performers are, making us believe how weak a father he is in the choice sequences he appears in. Also turning in fine performances no matter how brief their roles are the supporting actors and actresses. “Anak” is currently breaking box-office records. No doubt the big crowds that continue to flock to the theaters where it’s showing are attracted by its very timely story acted out with impressive beauty and with such impact by the movie’s cast which should be gathered again in a “reunion” vehicle, perhaps with Quintos again as director. – Sol Jose Vanzi, Manila Bulletin, May 16, 2000 (READ MORE)

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