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Good character development often happens in television shows where stories are stretched out for a long period of time and characters literally and figuratively grow. This is particularly notable in American television programs where shows are created annually or in seasons.

A simple exercise in assessing character development is to put the characters in a certain environment and expect their reaction to be what you expect him or her to react based on how they are branded by the show. It is where they respond to a new stimulus without losing who they are or how they have become known to the audience.

In the case of Philippine media, a good example of effective character development isn’t found on TV. One, because television series creators are not often given the ability to plan how to unfold their stories. When the show flops, the story must end prematurely. When it succeeds, the story is extended to the point of it being ugly. Hence, the best way to see character development in Philippine media is in cinema, a medium where the creators have much more control over how to tell stories i.e., length of the film and number of characters involved.

In this video essay, we discuss how a Pinoy movie, “Four Sisters and a Wedding” did an excellent job in developing the characters of its story. We cite how the script paired with superb acting made the characters relatable and entertaining.

This is Cinetactic and for this week, we talk about character development.

In the first few minutes of Four Sisters and a Wedding, the film introduces the main characters, the four sisters, and their contrasting lives. From this alone, the audience can catch a glimpse as to how the writers draw lines separating each persona. These comparisons will be seen in various parts of the film, at times overt while in some cases subtle.

In the first act of the movie, the audience has formed an expectation as to how each character would respond to situations they are put into. Teddy, the eldest, takes solving the family problem a personal responsibility. Bobby, the righteous, would take the high road and denounce her sisters’ silly plan to cancel the wedding. Alex, the rebellious, would bring her boyfriend to a family gathering just so she can spite everyone. And Gabbie, the maternal, takes care of the family affairs from cooking food to managing the affairs of the family.

Other characters were well-formed and developed too. Jeanette, not Janet, is a trying hard nouveau riche. Princess, a naive spoiled brat with a genuine belief of love. Manang, the stereotypical family maid, silent witness to the family’s journey. Grace, Pinay matriarch whose children’s ultimate goal is to please her. All of whom are unique characters responding aptly to the conditions set by the film.

With the effective development of these characters, each individual can be brought even outside the realm of the movie. Fans would joke around how Connie Reyes, playing as Grace, is proud of his newly elected Pasig City mayor son Vico Sotto. Such an occurrence is proof of how strong and memorable the development of Grace’s character is.

It helped that the filmmakers included minute details, so the characters become, in a way, more complete. For example, knowing where the siblings studied gives their personality more depth. Bobby being an Ateneo graduate, somehow explains how she successfully built a corporate career path in New York, compared to her four other siblings who graduated from UP.

The performance of the cast complemented the strong character built of the film. The actresses were consistent with how they play their roles. They have even developed certain ticks for their characters. Since the film was a celebration of Star Cinema’s 20th anniversary, the production was able to afford its top-billed cast. Each of the main cast has a large portfolio in her acting career.

Character development in Four Sisters and a Wedding is particularly significant since the main roles are women. It is fun to see strong women figures having interesting characteristics that interact with one another – something not often done in cinema. The interactions between this well-thought of characters somehow suggest to the audience that women can come in different forms. They may be feisty or sweet, career-driven or maternal, competitive, or supportive.

And this is how good character development contributes to cinema and filmmaking. The lessons of the film are brought even outside the boundaries of the cinema itself. The tale of characters may have ended after the one and half hour run of the film, but in the minds of these viewers, these well-constructed characters live on. They become more than caricatures employed to tell a story. Films that have passed the test of time have well-developed characters.

What do you think? Do you agree that Four Sisters and a Wedding has well-developed characters? What film have you recently watched with good character development?