Even after seven to eight years away from the big screen, in her first independent film and Cinemalaya entry, Sharon Cuneta has reclaimed the hearts of many through her role of Cora, a woman desperate to reunite with her estranged family, accompanied by Moi Marcampo as Bebang, an unruly maid from the countryside forced to serve Cora for life. Mes de Guzman is one of the most accomplished independent directors in the country for a reason: the film is heartily enjoyable with a few surprising turns along the way, with the humor hilariously crass at best but no less smart.
'Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha' starts out simple: In the town of Lanaoag lives a family who cannot weep whatever misfortune befalls on them, however, it is rumored that if one family member of the family sleeps over at another person’s house, they will be reunited with an estranged family member. However, many do not believe this tale and forced them out of the town with their whereabouts unknown. This, in turn, has caused their onion distribution to weaken, putting the town into despair and depression as they eagerly wait for the return of the family.
Fast forward to the present time, Bebang is seen on her way to Cora’s house, seeing the land barren and full of decaying plants in the middle of nowhere. For the first few minutes of the movie, Sharon is faceless, almost always having something blocking her face, causing distress on Bebang who sees the big but empty house as similar to a graveyard. Several shots of whiskey and mentions of fried livers later, these two form an odd, inseparable bond as Cora shares her stories of missing family members that have simultaneously abandoned her for greener pastures; which was why Cora is desperate to look for the family who cannot weep as in her mind, once she completes them, she can be reunited with her own family.
Bebang then invites the help of her Tito Buboy (Niño Muhlach) a chain smoker with a knack for searching for missing people. Buboy then sets on a journey of roughly manhandling passers-by, asking if they’ve seen the family who cannot weep holding a series of very blurry photographs in front of their faces. After several sticks of cigarettes and isaw later, he was able to find the parents of the family as well as Edsel, their son, who Bebang later does her utmost best to seduce. The film then takes a break from the light-hearted harping of the first half and explores Cora’s abandonment issues, transforming into what could be one of Cuneta’s best hand at acting yet.
Despite this being her first independent film, Cuneta broke into the indie scene as if she’s been acting in the genre for years. Her portrayal of Cora was a refreshing take on the common mother trope in mainstream films for being meek and a homebody. Cora was a depressed shut-in who used alcohol as a coping mechanism for missing her children and husband; a role that Cuneta delved into quite well. Her counterpart, Marcampo, had many of the audience’s attention with her frizzled hair and cheeky smile. There was no part of Marcampo’s that was dull, in fact, after the first few seconds; it was as if viewers craved to see more of her, laughing even the smallest of mannerisms. Muhlach is definitely one of the breakout stars in the film, his one-liners enough to steal a scene.
Though the film itself is enjoyable, there were some parts that are irrelevant to the story and were only added for the illusion of depth of character and to add more comedic timing: Cora’s reporter dream shadowed by an up-and-coming internet star was one of them. This was a moment that added nothing to the story except for one small parody of today’s internet starts getting famous for the smallest things, case in point: the internet star getting famous for wearing Hello Kitty panties. Some jokes were milked to the point of incredulity, with Bebang scolding a couple of girls coming out of Edsel’s room after what was seen as a night of pleasure, teetering on slut-shaming in the guise of “comedy.” They weren’t kidding when they said this to be a dark comedy, as most of the humor stems from a very grim place. However, even with the few hiccups, the story itself had a good flow, bringing the audience along with the many upheavals of Cora’s life. The progression of the story was steady and the development of the characters evident in the most subtle of ways.
‘Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha’ was an adventure and more; highly recommended for those who would like their sense of humor to be shaken, not stirred.