You’ve heard it all before. People complaining that the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), the annual event in which film studios come out with their biggest stars every Christmas, keeps on giving us hastily made movies with little to no plots or narrative logic. Some would even say that from the actors to the directors, to even the story itself, it’s just some rehashed version of what comes out year after year. If you’re one of the many who are already jaded about the whole MMFF, there’s reason to hope. Instead of complaining about all the other movies, you can instead watch the best film not only from the festival, but quite possibly in the entire year: Honor Thy Father.
Starring John Lloyd Cruz in a role of a lifetime, the film is directed by the prolific Erik Matti, he of On The Job (OTJ) and the upcoming Darna reboot, and it’s a partnership made in movie heaven. The two seem to have brought out the best in one another, giving us a film that’s very much different than OTJ but probably carries twice as much weight. The movie is all about these two, the director and the actor creating a film that breaks the mold of not only the MMFF but Filipino films in general. Reading up on the making of this film, it’s been said that Matti would sit down with Cruz about the story and where it should go, frequently editing and changing the story closer to what is true for the both of them. And as a result, Honor Thy Father brings out surprising and remarkable turns by both men. It showcases what Cruz and Matti can truly do, given the right production.
If you’ve seen the huge poster as you pass Guadalupe, it may seem a little misleading after you watch the film. What appears to be a story focusing on a father-daughter relationship is actually a character study of a man pushed into the corner and what he must do in the face of losing everything. It’s a powerhouse performance by Cruz, who is in almost every scene. As much as starring in the record-breaking A Second Chance last month, this will be the performance to remember him by. There is no hint of Popoy in this movie at all. In its place is a character and performance inspired by Bryan Cranston’s Walter White, Viggo Mortensen in A History of Violence, and even a little Ryan Gosling from Drive.
The film also stars Meryll Soriano as Kaye, the wife of JLC’s Edgar, Tirso Cruz III as Bishop Tony, the leader of a religious organization, and newcomer Krystal Brimner as Edgar’s daughter Angel, among others. But make no mistake, this is John Lloyd Cruz’s breakout movie. The actor without question gives it his all, literally diving into the dirt and mud, as if he’s been dying to show the world what he can actually do, what kind of actor he actually thinks he is. It’s not a stretch to say that after watching this film. Cruz’s Edgar arguably makes the cinematic Heneral Antonio Luna look like Emilio Aguinaldo.
This is a must-see film for anyone who’s been waiting for a reason to support the MMFF. And after you watch this film, you’re going to start wishing that all future MMFF movies will be as good as Honor Thy Father. That’s why it’s a shame that controversy surrounded Honor Thy Father, with fault to the film and the entire production. From overpriced tickets—with some cinemas making it the only film to charge higher than every other MMFF entry—to the much talked-about Best Picture disqualification, allegations that have proven to be utterly baseless, it seems like forces are at work against the film. Which again puts all the focus on the MMFF, an organization that has garnered so much ridicule, controversy, and distrust from the industry and fans all across the country. This latest issue just makes the MMFF that much more questionable, and really cements its role in doing more harm than good to the local film industry.
Awards or no awards, it’s clear to those who’ve seen it that Honor Thy Father is truly a cut above the rest, not just among this year’s MMFF movies but for almost the last two decades. It’s awful to admit but it seems that the MMFF’s main objective is to milk every centavo they can get and place the craft and love for film a distant second. Honor Thy Father was our great big hope for this year’s MMFF. It was the underdog movie we all wanted to succeed, because it deserved to. It wasn’t going to be the top-grossing entry, and people were going to be okay with that.
We knew there were politics and personalities at play throughout the MMFF; that’s no surprise either. What really broke our hearts was the alleged sabotage at play, making sure that Honor Thy Father wouldn’t even get a fair shot to begin with. Being pulled out from screens a day after it opened and overpricing tickets just to name a few, a film of this caliber and quality doesn’t deserve to be treated the way Honor Thy Father has been by the governing body. Perhaps the greatest support we can give this local gem is to spread the word on its successes and do our best to get asses in those seats. If we’re lucky, there will still be cinemas showing the film in the days ahead, and if the MMFF won’t listen to our call, maybe they’ll listen to our wallets.