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By Heinrich Domingo

Star Cinema’s opening salvo this year offers a glimpse on how love stories can be effectively interspersed in a promising plot. Everything About Her bears a multi-tiered discussion on maternal, filial and romantic love. With a clean storyline and commendable acting, Director Joyce Bernal brought us the best of Filipino populist cinema in the recent years.

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A business mogul (played by Vilma Santos) hires a private nurse (Angel Locsin) after being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. She requested to see her estranged son (Xian Lim) whom she abandoned after choosing to focus on her career. While the three characters help together in battling an unbeatable disease, they also seek for resolutions in issues of abandonment and careerism.

Everything About Her jumpstarts from the introduction of a strong woman character and her remarks on womanhood vis-à-vis the patriarchal system. Vilma Santos’ seasoned acting provided a solid springboard for all the succeeding scenes and other upcoming characters. Her motherly vibe and realistic portrayal of a rich classy woman holds together the movie’s story.

With her is a superb performance from Angel Locsin. We see in the big screen a complete package who can command the audience with any role she takes. Locsin’s all-out acting bridges the gap between an accomplished actress and a newbie actor. Despite the inability to initially establish a romantic team up with Lim, she gracefully fulfilled her complex roles of being a compassionate caregiver, forgiving daughter, and loving sister.

Accompanying the two veteran actresses is a neophyte Xian Lim. Prior to this movie, he was all chiseled face and abs in the industry. But a melodramatic scene between him and Vilma on a hospital bed showed how he has matured as an actor. With the beautiful plot about to unfold, the crowd is constantly suspended in midair waiting for Xian to ruin the scene. The expected flop never came. And in a sense, he saved the day.

The screen writers who led the story in the right path are commendable. Instead of following the typical love story clichés of Star Cinema, Everything About Her turned into a mother-child tale revolving around the relevant issue of women’s social role. Yet, in an apparent intention to serve the male hegemony, the movie succumbed to the sexist generalization that women must become mothers first to be regarded as successful.

Bernal’s treatment of the beautiful screenplay and the outstanding cast paved way to making a successful dramedy. The contrast between drama and humor was just right. Notable in this movie is her deviation from the typical storytelling techniques of pop movies. A characters’ death was not romanticized, a love team remained to be at the backdrop, and overly dramatic confrontations were kept to a minimum. All these unconventional takes saved the crowd from possibly cringe-worthy moments.

Creating a film that meets both corporate demand and artistic prerequisite is still a challenge in the Philippine cinema. Everything About Her gives hope to upcoming romance and comedy movies in our country. With a good start, maybe we can hope for equally excellent Star Cinema films this year. Maybe.

4.5 stars

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