When searching through the internet about old Filipino movies, it surprises me that there's not a lot of things and information you can find. It's a shame, especially for me who grew up in an era where hundreds of movies are released every year. Not that a lot of them are noted for its great quality but it is part of a wonderful past and I find that in some of these movies, you'll find a reflection how Filipino lives evolved through the years.
Broken Marriage is a perfect example of this. When the movie was released in 1983, separation are still relatively frowned upon on. This was evident in how Ellen's mother reacted with the couple's decision to separate. So from that perspective, you could say that the movie was brave in presenting an anatomy of marriage. However, decades after, there are more films that were far more successful in doing this. But that's not to say that the movie is no longer relevant.
The movie wasted no time. From the opening sequence, Ellen and Rene are at each other's throat. Rene is resenting that Ellen has no time anymore to take care of him and the kids. Ellen resents the fact that Rene doesn't appreciate her for being a working mom. Obviously, this issue is still relevant. Although husbands don't expect their wives to be full time housewives nowadays, a lot of married couples still have the same argument.
As the movie progresses, we see that this resentment coupled with Rene's jealousy has wedged a distance between Ellen and Rene to the point that they can even stand sleeping in one bed together without arguing. There's an obvious emotional distance between them even when they try to put on a facade for their friends. And as the title suggests, the two decided to separate. From this point onward, the movie presents us with the pros and cons of separation.
Compared to other Filipino movies, it practiced restraint and didn't take every possible opportunity to dramatize and bathe in melodrama. But if you're a fan of that, there's still enough there that you can soak into. What sets this movie apart from all other marital spat movies is its honesty and simplicity. It hits the nail on the head that marriage is a lot of work. It's a 24/7 hour job that even if we have careers/dreams that we want to pursue and people who want to be, it should take priority over everything else. Not that it should take away a piece of ourselves but it should be a willing sacrifice. And the only way that one can do it willingly is to realize that marriage is the foundation of every family.
I love it how Ellen realized this in the end and decided to give the marriage another go. Rene, on the other hand, who had always been understanding of Ellen's yearning to be a woman of her own, realized the importance of his family to him. There was a review that thinks the reconciliation will be a short-lived one. I disagree with the assessment. At the end of the film, both of these realizations from Ellen and Rene changed them for the good of their marriage. Sure, they will still have arguments and fights but if there's one thing that marriage needs for it to work: the couple's ability to see the big picture --- why making it work is worth it. And this is very evident with the upbeat conclusion that we get from the movie.
The screenplay leaves a lot to be desired but the actors filled in those gaps. While a lot of people lauds Vilma Santos for her portrayal of Ellen, I felt that Christopher De Leon as Rene was the "MVP" of this movie. There's a subtlety and wonderful balance on how he presented with Rene --- while some of his actions are objectionable, De Leon's Rene is very sympathetic. His unspoken lines and his actions helped bridge the story as it justifies his motivations for his decisions. But like any other Christopher-Vilma movie, their chemistry as actors breathes into the film and makes it stronger than the material.
So should you see this movie? I say yes! You'll probably be surprised how a lot of things that the movie pointed out are still relevant even in these times.
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