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Metro Manila Film Festival 2020: All in the family

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By Zsarlene B. Chua, Senior Reporter

MOVIE REVIEW
Coming Home
Directed by Adolf Alix, Jr.

WHILE I wrote in the Magikland review on this page that it was a pity that the movie wasn’t able to get a full theatrical release as the film was absolutely meant to be seen on the big screen with high quality surround sound, in contrast, the family drama Coming Home is perfect as a TV movie or afternoon drama as the cluttered storyline often left me wondering if I had missed something.

Magikland’s faults rests on the ineffectiveness of its child actors, but Coming Home has no such issues — in fact, the whole cast (with the exception of its lead star Jinggoy Estrada, playing the sick father) delivered and proved their acting chops, especially Sylvia Sanchez as the long-suffering matriarch and mother to five children.

The story is straightforward — or it should have been: A sick father, who abandoned his family for a decade (an OFW in Saudi Arabia, he fell in love with a nurse and lived with her), returns to his legal family and his wife welcomes him with open arms while four of the five children, traumatized by his leaving, are understandably angry.

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Complications arise as each person in the family has their own issues as well: one daughter (played by Shaira Dizon) is a newly married yet battered wife; a son (Martin del Rosario) is having an affair with a married woman; another son (Edgar Allan Guzman) has just returned after being lost at sea after his ship was attacked by pirates; and the mother is hiding an issue of her own. Oh, and actually there were six children — the oldest one died prior to the events in the movie (to make it worse, the eldest child donated a kidney to his father who eventually abandoned them for another woman.)

The remaining two children — played by Vin Abrenica and Julian Estrada — have no complications in their lives. Interestingly, the only child who doesn’t have an issue with the return of their father is played by Julian Estrada, Mr. Estrada’s son in real life. The eldest child who died is played by Jake Ejercito, a half sibling of Mr. Estrada.

There was a lot of build-up over the animosity and reconciliation of the family but none of the scenes ever explained why Mr. Estrada came back (or maybe this writer missed it because streaming on Upstream wasn’t the smoothest experience — I had about six crashes while watching the film), or why the mistress (Ara Arida) even gave him back when he had a child with her too.

The multiple issues surrounding the children were also rushed through and the resolutions half-baked, which made one wonder if the script was originally intended as a multi-part drama series.

Ms. Sanchez delivered some of her best work in Coming Home, as a protective mother to her abused daughter and a mother grieving over her lost child, she was very real and raw. The same goes for all the children, whose anger and resentment against a missing father shone through the screen.

The same cannot be said for Mr. Estrada who could not even summon a tear upon hearing of the death of his eldest, the one who gave him his kidney. His best friend, played by Smokey Manaloto, showed grief better in the same scene.

Coming Home wanted to be a heartfelt film about how family must stick together and that family is best, and it was — if you take out Mr. Estrada’s character out of the picture and focus instead on how Ms. Sanchez kept her family together even though the father left them. That, to this writer, would have been a more compelling story.

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