A balancing act between comedy and drama

July 24, 2019
Dawn Zulueta and Michael V
Dawn Zulueta and Michael V

MICHAEL V’s directorial debut, “Family History”, which he also wrote, co-produced and starred in, got a grade of B from the Cinema Evaluation Board. It was successfully premiered at three theaters of SM Megamall on Tuesday, the night before it opened nationwide yesterday. The reception is very warm, judging from the comments we heard after the screening.

Although the movie is basically drama, there are many hilarious scenes that really sent the crowd laughing out loud. There are many funny scenes but the most rollicking and riotous for us is when the bumbling Michael V nearly burned down the house of the unsuspecting Ina Feleo, who plays the mom of Bianca Umali, the girlfriend of his son, Miguel Tanfelix.

Most viewers think it’s well-acted by the whole cast and Bitoy shines as the lead actor, Alex, with Dawn Zulueta as May, his wife. We agree with them, both Bitoy and Dawn are standouts. Bitoy as Alex is an animation artist who has a zany outlook in life and Bitoy has this predominantly positive aura serving him well in his light scenes that even resort to slapstick. But when something like a thunderbolt hits Alex without warning, Bitoy finds vast reserves of unbridled sentiment as he discovers some uncomfortable truths about his marital relationship.

Dawn quietly simmers in many scenes, effortlessly revealing an underlying problem of emotional complications as she harbors a deep dark secret. But more than the persuasive acting, the movie is a thoughtfully and well-crafted look at the best and worst moments of family life that can resonate with many viewers who belong to a family.

Of course, we cannot reveal much of the story as any details would be a sure spoiler, but just sit back, relax, because Michael V can be quite a good storyteller. He’s been working in front of the camera for almost 30 years now, so Bitoy has definitely paid his dues and has already learned a lot about how to work even behind it.

Technically, “Family History” is handsomely mounted, with superb cinematography. We got to visit the set of the house where Bitoy and Dawn live and it’s so drab and plain looking, but here, it certainly springs to life with the great lighting and lensing they did. The musical score is also very adequate and the song composed for the movie (which Bitoy sang in a touching scene while accompanying himself on the ukelele) has all the making of a ditty that should win an award for best original song.

For the directorial debut of Bitoy, the movie is certainly worth a look. It’s a delicate balancing act between comedy and drama, a movie that contains a lot of laughs but also delivers some inconvenient truth about human relationships, about love and forgiveness. But we still wish they chose a more catchy title than “Family History”, which sounds so detached and dispassionate, when the movie certainly is not.

We also find the movie a bit too long and some scenes can certainly be trimmed down to quicken the pacing. We wish that instead of those overly long scenes of Bitoy in his office, he just instead gave more time and attention to Miguel and Bianca who now seem to be included here just to help attract the younger crowd of viewers. Miguel’s reaction when he finds out the truth about his mom is totally ignored and the conflict between him, his dad and Bianca toward the end is also rushed and not given a proper closure.