Review: Pasang Krus (1/5)

Although independent filmmaking is said to provide cutting edge and modern cinema for Filipinos, filmmakers are still caught up in a hangover infinitum caused by the classics. Most of the times, they can’t help themselves but genuflect to the past by borrowing clich├ęd and overused elements from old school movies. And although we already have a handful of these dramas, especially those about the poor and their travails in life, some directors just don’t know when to quit.

To label “Pasang Krus” as a tearjerker is a disgrace to the term. The film is just grossly sentimental and overly dramatic. Here, director Buboy Tan (Ataul for Rent) tries to hit two birds with one stone by portraying the struggles of a misery-magnet mother and using the crucifixion of Christ as a metaphor for her sacrifices in the name of her family. It’s a Mother’s Day and Lenten Season film rolled into one, but is effective as neither.

At the centerpiece of this drama is Herminia (Rosanna Roces), the mother of five who ran away from the wrath of the provincial congressman who wants to banish her family out of greed. However, the congressman’s minions killed her husband while two of her children got lost in the escape. Fifteen years forward, she is trying to make ends meet for her three children – Jess (Ketchup Eusebio), a snatcher who gets involved in a kidnapping incident; Marco (Christian Burke), in jail for murdering his wife; and Lucas (Beejay Morales), the youngest troublemaker in the brood.

Herminia swims in a cesspool of gloom and despair as unfortunate incidents strike her endlessly. And that’s the major problem of the film. It feels too unreal. How can a mother who is morally grounded and selfless be this unlucky? Blame it to the fickleness of fate, or should I say, the whimsy pen of the screenwriter who seems to takes pleasure from seeing Herminia suffer. But no matter what the characters go through, it’s difficult to empathize with them. The characters are wooden and lack depth. Likewise, the portrayal of the poor is governed by stereotypes and self-indulgence. It constantly makes up excuses for the crimes committed by the poor by portraying them as helpless and unable to break free from the clutches of poverty. Making it appear that happenstance, not human will, is the be-all and end-all of all incidents in life.

Towards the end of the film, the filmmaker finally decides to put an end to the woes of her heroine by detouring from Depression Lane to a shortcut leading to a happy ending. Abel (Joross Gamboa), the long lost eldest son of Herminia suddenly (and I mean suddenly) comes into the picture to save his family from being submerged in a muck of hopelessness by seemingly providing the ultimate solution to end all their problems. It’s like being miraculously saved by artificial luck or more aptly, by the machinations on fate. It’s a miracle too remote to be believable and a kind of resolution the characters did not earn at all.

“Pasang Krus” offers nothing but a rehash of melodramas about the poor. With scenes of nonstop moping and crying, this could very well retire daytime soaps. And that is not a compliment.

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