In the tradition of tasteful comedy films like Mark Meily’s Crying Ladies and Jeffrey Jeturian’s Bridal Shower, Regal matriarch Lily Monteverde presents a comedy that pales in comparison to the other two movies mentioned. I Will Survive, directed by Joel Lamangan and scripted by Ricky Lee, has its dose of funny moments and amusing situations. However, the film is utterly shallow, arguably awkward, and in the end, rather forgettable.

In the tradition of tasteful comedy films like Mark Meily’s Crying Ladies and Jeffrey Jeturian’s Bridal Shower, Regal matriarch Lily Monteverde presents a comedy that pales in comparison to the other two movies mentioned. I Will Survive, directed by Joel Lamangan and scripted by Ricky Lee, has its dose of funny moments and amusing situations. However, the film is utterly shallow, arguably awkward, and in the end, rather forgettable.

The film revolves around the lives of three contemporary women played by Maricel Soriano, Dina Bonnevie and Judy Ann Santos. Adding to the trio is a gay foster father portrayed by Eric Quizon.

The main characters have their own problems to remedy. Soriano has a very sexually aggressive son and a philandering husband who contaminates her with a sexually transmitted disease. Bonnevie, in turn, is a beautiful and much-adored model turned wife and mother of an adolescent girl who seems to be her exact opposite in terms of looks and personality. On the other hand, Judy Ann Santos plays an Overseas Foreign Worker based in Qatar who comes home only to find out that her daughter barely knows her and that her husband, also an OFW based in Australia, has been keeping a secret from her for the longest time. Finally, Eric Quizon is a gay man who is still hiding inside his closet – as far as his two sons are concerned.

Each character stands for certain individuals that are very common in Philippine contemporary life. Soriano is a woman who finds herself caught up in a sexually-awakened society that so easily crosses the line between old-fashioned timidity and sexual promiscuity. Her character also introduces the once taboo issue of women who contract STDs from their promiscuous partners – perhaps taking its queue from reality by way of a TV host/actress who publicly confessed to having STD from her incurably womanizing live-in partner. Bonnevie’s character, on the other hand, tries to reflect the effects of a society that gives too much premium on vanity and one’s physical appearance. In the film, she is a woman much adored by her husband and the people around her that directly causes her alienation from her daughter who refuses to keep up with her mom’s established persona. Soap opera queen Judy Ann Santos is a wife and mother who finds financial security in a foreign country. However, upon her return, she finds her family in a state of disarray. Quizon’s character, lastly, tries to rebuff the notions of what it takes to be good father and what it takes to be a “man.”

In the end, Soriano’s sexually awkward character in the film learns to fully take charge of her own sexuality. Aside from that, Bonnevie learns to accept the individuality of her daughter and Santos learns to forgive herself and her husband. And finally, Quizon is accepted by his first adopted son when he proves himself capable of being “man enough” for his foster child.

Ricky Lee’s light hearted and highly amusing script succeeds in creating realistic and very interesting characters. Rising from stereotypes, Lee manages to embellish his characters with a very “NOW” feel and with a seeming sense of urgency as if the characters were easily one’s neighbors. Of course, his skilled scriptwriting skills and characterizations were well matched by the generally fine performances of the actors. Joel Lamangan, a proven actor’s director, succeeds in bringing out the best in fleshing out the main protagonists. All four lead actors were very believable in their respective portrayals. However, the supporting cast ranged from excellent to so-so. Serena Dalrymple is very good as an insecure daughter who rebels against her mother. So is Tonton Gutierrez as Bonnevie’s overly-adoring husband. However, the rest of the cast are under-utilized and have litmus paper-thin characterizations. Perhaps, the writer and the director focused too much on the four protagonists.

Just like Lamangan’s Filipinas, I Will Survive again has a somewhat erratic cinematography, using improper zooms and silly camera movement in some parts. The production design is just fine and the editing is rather superb. In fact, the movie is fast paced and it wastes no time. Nevertheless, there clearly were some incoherencies when it comes to sound and the dubbing sometimes does not follow the actual speaking of the actors.

What’s rather interesting in this film is its use of song and dance numbers. Regal’s signature musical numbers seen in its films back in the 80’s were again dusted off and marched back on stage in this film. But what separates this film from those silly slapstick comedies of yesteryears is that I Will Survive has a clear intention and is highly committed to good storytelling. As far as the author is concerned, the song and dance numbers greatly added in the film’s entertainment value without violating the brains of the thinking viewer. Moreover, although some comedic attempts are unsuccessful, the film is still miles and miles better than the lousy Star Cinema films starring Bayani Agbayani or Vhong Navarro shown in recent years.

Given the film’s merits and flaws, the biggest turn off in this film is its very shallow take and simplistic resolutions on such valid and realistic contemporary issues such as vanity, sexuality, STD, family, the OFW, and gender roles. Even though the scriptwriter and director clearly had good intentions in the making of this film, the issues presented in the film end up romanticized, predictable, and even taken for granted. They are suddenly resolved through one single action. This hardly happens in reality.

Hence, overall, the film’s ambitious efforts end up in a shallow platter where the real issues that reflect reality evaporate along with the musical numbers. This, sadly, leaves a half-baked effort that is funny and entertaining but suffers in its highly simplistic resolutions and shallow treatment of realistic issues that may be comparable to a doughnut – sweet and delicious on the sides but hollow at the very center.

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