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William A. Seiter
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John Lloyd Cruz,
Way Back Home tells the genial parable of a Filipino family that experiences the tragedy of losing their younger daughter due to the older one not looking after her and the calamity they've faced throughout the years. Twelve years later, the family discovers that she has been alive for all this time, living with a charming family and being brought up wholesomely for her tween years and now into her adolescence.
So... 'what to do now?' is the question on the family's mind. Do they disregard the twelve years the daughter has not been in their possession and claim her as their own? Or do they allow for the stream of consciousness to continue flowing smoothly, and allow the daughter to live with her, technically, adoptive parents? Way Back Home poses, at the very least, a conversational topic for a film that may divide audiences on what the exact ethics are for this particular situation. The daughter who goes missing is Joanna, named Ana (Kathryn Bernardo) by her adoptive parents, and her biological-sister is Jessica, played by Julia Montes, the young and beautiful Filipino breakthrough talent of recent years.
This is my introduction to Filipino cinema, and it's definitely not a wretched start. However, my first question is are they all this emotionally manipulative? The methods that the film takes to squeeze a tear out of the audience are transparent and, many of them, ill-conceived as a whole. This is the kind of story that could be over in roughly forty-five minutes if the characters had an earnest, heartfelt conversation rather than exchanging tears and words of pity and anger every few minutes. Too often does the story and its characters try to make us cry and feel sorry for their situation by creating drama or dry setups, some handled effectively, others handled amateurishly and as a means to exploit.
Yet the film is glistened with lively performances, particularly from Julia Montes, whose cute-as-a-button smile and sunny disposition carry the film almost solely on its own. Also, Kathryn Bernardo handles the challenging, often conflicted role of Ana, who is often forced into a box that she can not fit into.
Way Back Home, while a tad too concerned with problematic melodrama and soap-opera-like tendencies, is an interesting little tale on a unique, unconventional family issue that, even if incredulous, can be considered somewhat plausible. Its landscapes, which are mainly coastal backdrops are delicately placed, the characters work their way into becoming marginally developed overtime, and everything progresses at a smooth and concise pace. It may be even a bit more concise if there wasn't a lame, corny fish joke awaiting the closer of every sentence.
Starring: Kathryn Bernardo, Julia Montes, and Agot Isidro. Directed by: Jerry Lopez Sineneng.
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