Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (2011)

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Jun Lana, 2011)

Its prologue, which briefly introduces its bouquet of characters and their curious relationships and situations, is divided into three parts, all of which are introduced by the three words of its generic title followed by sayings that would do better on greeting card than in a movie. Jun Lana’s Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is very convinced of its complexities that it utilizes these needless storytelling devices that are in reality are just ornaments to a narrative that is as elementary and straightforward as a daytime soap, only cramped within two hours. It is a film that does not say anything about anything, except perhaps to offer a glimpse of the sort of problems a Filipino upper class family, as imagined and fictionalized to cater to the masses, would be involved in.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is essentially about the Montes family, owners of the country’s largest television network and a sort of hyperbolic representative of the famously wealthy and influential clans whose members’ lives we can only pretend to know. Tackling the sordid lives of the members of the Montes family and the people that are close to them, the film mines entertainment from tragedy, enjoyment from the manufactured tears of its embattled characters, and delight from the all the entanglements and estrangements brought about by the peculiarities of its very many narrative conceits.

Paraplegic Donald, the Montes patriarch, believes that he has a stable family. Agnes (Agot Isidro), his second wife who is decades younger than him, is secretly having an affair with Derek (Dennis Trillo), her personal trainer. Celine (Solenn Heussaff), Donald and Agnes’ daughter, is starting to get bored with Vince (Paulo Avelino), her clingy boyfriend. Mariel (Maricel Soriano), Donald’s eldest daughter from his first marriage and head of the family’s television network, has turned into a sad and mad woman after being separated from Gary (Gabby Concepcion), her ex-husband who is about to be wed to Charlotte (Carla Abellana). Jacob (Jericho Rosales), Donald’s son, is trying to balance the demands of being a family man and an executive for the family’s network. Lory (Lovi Poe), his bored wife, sneaks out of the house at night to sing with her band, leaving their baby with the household help.

After a disastrous earthquake, secrets are revealed, relationships are threatened, and emotions are questioned, further complicating these characters’ already complicated lives. Ex-wives are turned into mistresses. Mothers are turned into romantic rivals. Lana crafts a topsy-turvy world in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and attempts to pass it off as a glossier and noisier version of reality, dealing with feelings and circumstances that are beyond belief despite the strange circumstances that they are evoked from. This is unabashed melodrama, spending more effort in mercilessly pitting its characters against calamitous events to allow tearful montages and dramatic exchanges of dialogue than anything else. Lana’s characters seem to be there only for their eye sockets that spew off tears of depression and frustration and mouths that sound off phrases that sound devastating but actually mean nothing. Their motivations are questionable. Their existences are negligible.

Moreover, Lana does not have the eye to make Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow more visually appealing or distinctive. The cinematography, although apt in the sense that scenes are sufficiently framed and lighted, is characterless, contented to only the service the narrative without doing anything else. The result is pretty much a visually uninteresting picture, salvaged only by performances that are consistently competent although out. The film, which is essentially just an expensively mounted “move on” note, is all dull gloss and glitter. Despite the film’s many flaws, there’s satisfaction in the way Lana manages to juggle his sprawling account of a fictional family to its open-ended conclusion, the way he attempted to break away from the expectations of a neatly packaged ending with all loose ends tied together in a lovely knot. It is not all bad. It is just not all good, either.

(Cross-published in Twitch.)

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