I was immensely satisfied with Erik Matti’s ‘ON THE JOB’ back in 2013 and thought that it was a great depiction of the filthiness that shrouds our government and the masterminds who gets to push its buttons. That film alone exemplifies that filmmaker Erik Matti’s boldness never ceases; his works ooze of grit, isn’t afraid to darkly reveal what is true and what really is going on in our country. His latest piece of work, Honor Thy Father continues to do just that, and in a manner that really makes us feel both infuriated and melancholic too.
Thoroughly veracious and appealingly humanistic, Matti’s drama telling of a burdened family is a cinematically realistic account of the struggle that we face in our lives that gets laden in unceasing artistic integrity with the help of a gripping narrative that can be viewed in different angles as it unravels a forcefully powerful moving tale of family and redemption that acts as a brutal but subtle attack at the church, and the hypocrites that governs it. Michiko Yamamoto’s screenplay is full of resentment and wrath; violently questioning the genuine existence of a “god” all throughout even if such interrogation could break the faith of its viewers. The answers to the questions that gets to be asked are exhibited with profound honesty – an honesty so harsh that it pushes us to do nothing more than re-think about what and who we believe in; deeming Yamamoto’s rather questionable narrative gesture as reasonable just as the lines separating reality and art gets blurred in Tirso Cruz III’s depiction of a pastor whose verisimilitude makes his onscreen appearance akin to the devil hooded in white cloth; much like what we see in our everyday lives. The absurdities that round up Cruz’s character satirizes that of a respected figure, that turns to be both amusing and maddening considering the fact that he represents a false prophet who does the exact same; fooling people into thinking that he is worthy of being revered and looked upon. His character and the conspiracy circling around the congregation he is a part of all plays a huge part in the main plot involving Edgar’s (Lloyd-Cruz) family that bashes the truth into our heads head thoroughly and effectively with its avoidance of being preachy and its exploitation of the far harsher truths that surrounds it – sending out a message to our minds that would drastically darken our senses towards the real men that he based his portrayal off of.
If you were to look at the characters and envision them as yourself, you as a viewer would feel hurt on the inside right as you witness the conspiracy unfolding between the church; rendering the depiction affective because it is all true. Moving back again to how controversial that issue tackled has been, you should just separate yourself from all the lies you so foolishly deny and open your mind to what is real. That should be accomplished with the film highly demanding you to do that. No matter how hard it is to believe that the church is indeed tainted, we must not only accept that fact but also work ourselves against it just as the film portrays. With all that we sometimes forget that this is all a work of art and in our eyes it becomes a painful predicament; what adds to that is this all based on facts and not opinions. More so, it transforms from being a film to an experience. An experience that is filled with a lot of emotions and truth, integrity and bleakness.
Picture this, the film opens with silence and stillness and ends with aggression and agony. The very first opening moment wonderfully foreshadow the hurtful ending; seeing this once contained and loving family man releasing all his anger and pain. What plays yet another huge role in embodying that bleakness is the brownish, washed-out look that is given to the film. It reflects the agony and stern tone of the film effectively. Photography and music hugely support that of the film’s fidelity to reality and, Dong Abay’s ‘Ama Namin’ and Armi Millare’s ‘Tao’ leaves an impact as it represented the tone and vibe of the film. Most specially ‘Tao’ which is affixed in the end of the film to let us reflect on the somberness of the events which have occurred.
A lot of sentiment are extracted from the audience, but it becomes overshadowed by pain and anger. The subject matters are all penetrated with potency from all its boldness and confidence; as if there is nothing holding it back from proclaiming the unpleasant actualities. Nonetheless, the moralities are never lost and the main story didn’t turn out to be overshadowed. The focus on the struggling characters is still there, leading us to fully believe that this isn’t just another vile assault against the church and God. But still, the center of what makes this story revolve is one of its strongest point, this is where it draws power from; the whole idea of a god abandoning a family which leads the family to face conflicts in their lives with desperation and the willingness to get by through the use of violence. It is where it becomes less like a film and more like a provocative mirror image of a dark reality that becomes hard to bear with. The amount of realism injected exerts grit and human appeal that makes us realize the weight of the situation with profundity and sincerity.
This becomes a little more convincing once you add in the situation our protagonist (antihero rather) is put through. John Lloyd’s character showcases the true feeling of desperation and lets us witness what someone would do to keep his family alive. Despite the questionable acts that he commits as the situation gets worse, you cannot feel more pitiful and sorry for him because of the hell he’s been going through. The human condition aspect is there, and its presence is truly felt. The magnitude of the hardships are convincing and sensible; authentic and highly unacceptable. Lloyd-Cruz’s acting of the highest caliber is brought out and his various display of emotions seen in his face show true desperation and that true feeling of anguish. The camera lingers on the quietness of his face in the opening moments and we are mesmerized by his visage as it becomes particularly more and more distorted with the frustration and rage that becomes evident as the film reaches its dark conclusion. The risk he’s willing to take just to keep his family alive is an aspect that is stretched to its fullest. At times it could even become unsettling and intensified, however it never failed to bring forceful persuasions from its audience.
That is where the morals knock in, and it could never be demoralizing considering the heaviness of the injury inflicted on the characters’ lives. The heart could be found amidst all the agony and violence in Edgar’s daughter Angel who is wonderfully portrayed by the young and talented Krystal Brimner. The relationship of father and daughter is truly emotional and adds yet another level of vulnerability to the character, leaving our souls stirred. As Filipino viewers, we are looking for something that would appeal to the Filipino spirit. These so-called Filipino values can be found, and the film showcases that both with the director’s artistry and the beautiful tragedies’ occurrences and the boundaries our character pushes to restore their previous life.
You can just picture yourself living that deteriorating life and getting that feeling of hopelessness rushing in. That life is demonstrated on a canvass that is painted with dirt, heart, and soul; two things that make this realistic tale come to life. The film evolves from being a Filipino production to a high-quality drama that could be mistaken as an Oscar contender due to the thoughtful writing and characters that connect themselves to their audience. The overall feel of HONOR being crafted almost like a Denis Villeneuve film stamped with Matti’s own Filipino flavor makes it feel like it is not part of the MMFF, but rather a high-end film festival acclaimed by critics. HONOR THY FATHER, just like its predecessor ON THE JOB becomes a sliver of hope for Philippine cinema, it is a piece of art that would appeal to cinephiles who value artistic integrity but is also a quasi- firsthand account of Filipino life that should most likely appeal to the Filipino mass. Matti’s gritty drama is a potent, tragic and thought-provoking story of redemption and family that cuts deep through the minds and hearts with the ferociously cogent message that it gets across. HONOR THY FATHER is one of this year’s best films without a doubt, and is one that is powerful enough to awaken the senses.
You deserve to see ‘HONOR THY FATHER’ and you deserve to see great films. ‘HONOR THY FATHER’ is still showing in Philippine cinemas and is rated R-13 by the MTRCB.