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Metro Manila Film Festival 2022: Like a car wreck on a highway

By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

Movie ReviewMy Father, Myself (2022)Directed by Joel LamanganMTRCB Rating: R-18

WHENEVER I see something slightly off-kilter, I hear the cheerleader from 1999’s Jawbreaker shouting, “This is crazy!” I don’t know where that actress is now, but I heard her voice in my head many times while watching My Father, Myself.

The movie tells the story of human rights lawyer Robert (played by Jake Cuenca), his adopted son Matthew (Sean de Guzman), his wife Amanda (Dimples Romana), and their daughter Mica (Tiffany Grey). Hear me out: this movie explores what a world would be like if the storylines in incest porn had consequences.

(Massive spoilers ahead! You have been warned.)

In the film, Matthew sleeps with both his adoptive sister and his adoptive father. Merry Christmas.

Matthew is the son of Domeng, a peasant leader killed in mysterious circumstances, and his father’s lawyer, Robert, keeps him in his home and raises him as his own alongside his welcoming family. Matthew becomes a top law grad, and his adoptive sister Mica takes the chance to confess her love for him at his graduation party. The film’s female characters note Robert’s fondness for Matthew, especially when it’s Matthew who receives his law books and not his own daughter. A graze of their hands as he hands his books to Matthew implies passion.

While reviewing for the bar exams, Matthew sleeps with his adoptive sister. Yikes. After he passes the bar, Matthew is told by his adoptive father that his birth father had been killed in a land dispute, while Robert notes his striking resemblance to his old client, played in flashbacks by Alan Paule. (I have to hand it to Jake Cuenca, he looks even better than before, and his pale clear skin and sharp features which had hardly aged whisper “handsome vampire.”)

It is during this encounter that they first kiss — instigated by Matthew. Robert, understandably and RIGHTLY so, rejects the kiss. Afterwards, he goes to a box at the top of his closet (wink, wink) where he keeps old keepsakes of Domeng, who turned out was Robert’s lover prior to his demise.

Troubled Matthew (the understatement of the year) visits his father’s grave, meeting Robert there. Matthew says he’s in love with his adoptive father, and tells him that he can see it in the way they look at each other, hoping to replace his dead father in Robert’s heart — a sentence I never want to type again. Robert, thankfully rational (ish, because if I truly were rational, the both of them would have headed over to therapy ages ago), rebuffs him.

Matthew is accepted at Robert’s law firm. Yay!

He also sleeps with his adoptive sister again. Not yay. Especially since when they’re doing the deed in a long-ish slow love scene, he imagines Robert in his arms instead of that man’s daughter.

After a hard day at work, which leads to a workplace fight, Matthew confronts Robert anew about their feelings, and to stop living the lie of being a model father — after which they make out. And more! So much more that my mouth was agape at some point, especially when I think that the man in the scene raised this boy as if he were his own.

Also, just to add to the ick factor, after a passionate night in the office, he tells his son, now lover, to go back to his daughter, because what will people say? I have the mind to tell him that his solution would elicit the same question.

Frankly, these two are thinking with their other heads. They’ve put themselves in a trap without a way out, and these two dust it off as if they have just watered a houseplant at the wrong time.

As we’ve mentioned, the plot is absolutely bonkers, and the film itself isn’t particularly beautiful (the cast itself is reasonably good-looking). It’s shot with all the affection fit for a Sunday TV drama (and not much else) while the music itself is flat (at least the other queer movies I like had a great soundtrack).

Meanwhile, Amanda, based on her glances, notices something off, and gives side-glances to her family during one of the most uncomfortable breakfasts ever filmed — after all, one member of the family is two-timing her daughter and her husband.

I have to hand it to Amanda — she carries the movie on her back despite being a very underrated character (she’s “just” the perfect housewife in this one). Her acting fits in with the film’s grasp towards realism, the only one to do so. The boy acts like he just walked on set, the girl acts as if this were a teen rom-com, while the dad acts as if ossified in a much more refined British period film (it’s not that it’s a bad performance, it just looks like he’s doing a completely different movie). Dimples Romana looks like the only one who truly did her homework. As for her character, Amanda, I wish I could tell her to kick everyone else out and sell the house and move somewhere with a lot of sun.

Robert, at least, has flashes of rationality. Admitting his own guilt to Matthew, he says that he formed the perfect family (as well as marrying into Amanda’s wealthy clan) in an effort to fit in and reject his own nature that during his time, was seen as sin. This is unfortunately true for many queer people in the shadows, but why did we have to get a game of sexual Twister to think about that? Why are we making this movie? Does the message of “Don’t sleep with your adoptive kids and siblings” bear repeating?

Meanwhile, Matthew, Mister “Couldn’t-Keep-It-In-His-Pants” gets his adoptive sister pregnant. His adoptive mother schemes to marry them together, and Robert raises the wonderful point that marrying their kids together (even if bonded by “just” adoption) is incestuous and sick — but he’s one to talk.

At another scene at his birth father’s grave, Matthew tells his adoptive father about what a huge mess they made. Indeed. Robert tells Matthew that he loves him too, and they kiss. At a grave. Of his ex-lover. Whose son he adopted.

Finally, finally; the pregnant Mica witnesses this kiss, and runs away (as she should, but less clumsily next time). She tells her brother: “I can’t believe my own father is having an affair with my own boyfriend!” You shouldn’t point fingers, Mica; your boyfriend happens to be your brother.

She also asks her boyfriend/adoptive brother who is better in bed: her, or her father? While this scene was playing, my notes said, in capital letters: “I WANT TO GO HOME!” Mica tells him to choose between her father or her unborn baby, but I really just want to tell Mica to choose herself and walk away from this mess.

Amanda tells Robert that she had always known about his nature. She’s smart, but not smart enough to just walk away from her deranged family. “To have an affair with the child you raised… at boyfriend pa ng anak mo (and your daughter’s boyfriend too),” she said. “Nakakadiri ka (you’re disgusting)!” Thank you for speaking our thoughts, Dimples.

The two males apologize to Amanda in separate scenes, but these are the least convincing apologies I’ve heard in a while. Amanda, meanwhile, is still on board about marrying off her two children — how are these people still holding on? I’d have bolted out of the house.

Anyway, Robert kills himself and his corpse is discovered. While there are accompanying screams, frankly, it’s shot as if he just stepped out for a smoke, and just so happened to leave his corpse behind.

The funeral scene, with a matching brass band, was the only beautifully shot sequence in the movie (yep, not even the love scenes). There are mourners and a coffin draped in black, and a horse-drawn hearse. Very chic — finally! — but someone in the movie had to die to make it happen. The three remaining members of the family mourn in different scenes. In a voiceover, Jake Cuenca reads out his character’s suicide notes, which Amanda burns in an urn. Meanwhile, Mica ruminates on her father’s note, apologizing about who he was (or maybe that he shouldn’t have slept with his adopted son). Matthew cries alone in a bar, holding his father/lover’s picture and a glass of their shared favorite, Johnnie Walker Black Label. He also did not forget to order a plate of sisig while thinking about all that he had lost.

The film’s finale has Matthew ending up together with Mica, despite all the red flags in the movie that told us that forming a false family only leads to ruin.

This movie is like a car wreck on a highway: instinct tells you to look away, but you have to just get one look, wince, and never look back. I get it: we need queer films to remind us of who we are. It’s an indictment of how queer people live lives that aren’t truly their own because of the demands of society. Society’s rejection ruins people from the inside out, eventually destroying themselves and the ones they love.

But did he really have to f**k his son?

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