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Presenting provocative, psychosexual power dynamics

A STILL from Your Mother’s Son

Movie Review
Your Mother’s Son
Directed by Jun Robles Lana

By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter

YOUR MOTHER’S SON (or, its superior curse-like title in Tagalog, Anak Ka ng Ina Mo) is acclaimed director Jun Robles Lana’s foray into the bomba genre, which at its worst is known for cheap sexual thrills and at its best can comment on Philippine society through the use of gratuitous sex scenes.

This film achieves the latter. It even opens with a caravan blasting a campaign jingle and tossing out flyers for a politician running for upcoming elections. It’s set in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, where employment is scarce, and people are confined mostly in their small communities.

It is in this environment that the director, Jun Robles Lana, brings us a twisted Freudian tale involving the manipulative Sarah (played as an equally desirable and abusive mother figure by Sue Prado); the impulsive delinquent son Emman (played by an explosive Kokoy de Santos); and the strange newcomer to the family, Oliver (played with an initial innocence by Miggy Jimenez). Without spoiling how they evolve throughout the film, each plays their part to perfection.

As mentioned, this psychosexual melodrama goes beyond being a fucked-up chamber piece. It is injected with brushstrokes of the Filipino penchant for letting unchanging, unfair, uncaring authority figures run things. Not everything totally matches up and reflects that message, though, with the victims in this story obsessed with their abuser in a way that does not quite parallel how Filipinos romanticize politicians in power. Still, the allegory is a thoughtful one, showing how people are groomed to be subservient.

None of the characters are free of fault, by the way. They are all unlikeable in their own ways, even the struggling, often off-the-rails friend Amy (played well by Elora Españo, though she sometimes overdoes the Bisaya accent to the point of pastiche). Most notable is De Santos’ choice to play Emman as a possessive, vaping fuckboy, which is an irritating persona to bestow on a lead, but one that is believably plentiful among Filipino youth. What he lost in his formative years was merely touched upon, a shame since it would have helped the audience empathize with him more, minimized in favor of focusing on his present anger with the situation.

The cinematography has striking moments, and the pacing and build-up in the narrative are seamless. It evokes a bit of In the Realm of the Senses, a bit of raunchy Vivamax fare, and a bit of the zeitgeist-appropriate dramedy that director Lana is better known for — explaining why it is disjointed in parts — but which bits you like is entirely up to your filmgoing palate.

There’s camp and shock value, all within this attempt to be a searing indictment of society. Desire here can be read as a way to mask the repression the characters are facing, but it can also be read as a weapon in itself that keeps the repressed obedient to authority.

Anak Ka ng Ina Mo aligns the disgusting internal power struggle of a lost, lustful group with that of the Filipino people. An engrossing albeit uncomfortable film to watch, but great to discuss with others afterwards, especially considering how divisive it can be.

It premiered in the Philippines at the Gateway Cineplex, in Quezon City’s Araneta City, at The IdeaFirst Company’s EnlighTEN Film Festival, which celebrates the production outfit’s 10th anniversary. Other titles being screened include Die Beautiful, Anino sa Likod ng Buwan, Manananggal sa Unit 23B, Distance, I America, and Sleepless. The festival runs until April 16.

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