‘Man and Wife’ review: Stale and old as time
There are just no pretenses of innovation in Laurice Guillen’s Man and Wife.
While it substantially modifies the plot of the long-running 50’s radio drama Gulong ng Palad, there really isn’t any attempt to evolve any of its themes and attitudes. All the aspects and facets that seem new are just ornamental.
Objections to love
Man and Wife opens with Carding (Gabby Concepcion) and Luisa (Jodi Sta. Maria) – who left the Philippines for the States in defiance of all the objections to their love – on their way back to Manila. Menang (Liza Lorena), Carding’s mom who is the mayor of a provincial town, has just suffered a stroke and needs the attention of her son, who thinks that his return with the daughter his mother has not seen would quell the anonymity his mother has for his wife.
Of course, it isn’t that easy.
As it turns out, the stroke suffered by Menang was due to the protests headed by Luisa’s brother (Edgar Allan Guzman), whose girlfriend is suffering from debilitating affliction due to the mining activities allowed by Menang. Menang thus takes the opportunity of Carding’s return to ask him to control the situation by meeting with his scheming ex-girlfriend (Denise Laurel), who is heading the operations of the mine. Carding is again faced with the dilemma of choosing between his wife and his family, with Luisa also bewildered by her role in her husband’s precarious and peculiar position in the community.
Guillen pulls the radio drama away from overly familiar dilemmas of a class-conflicted romance by infusing into the storyline the bonds of marriage. This is no longer just a melodrama that peddles the fantasies of love overcoming the economic disparities between two lovers.
Man and Wife, as the title suggests, attempts to pit marriage with the same conflicts that have hounded Carding and Luisa in the various iterations of their love story. Sure, this is an interesting proposition.
Sadly, the film never really dives deep enough, seemingly satisfied with the shallowest of discourses that a melodrama with trite political undertones can offer. The film never really disengages itself from the bland and somewhat obsolete delights of an overwrought and overstuffed soap opera.
It’s all hollow.
So much gloss
Thankfully, Man and Wife has so much gloss to veil its gossamer discourse on relationships.
The performances are mostly fine. Sta. Maria is an adequate enough lead, although the character she portrays doesn’t really provide a lot of space for her to stretch her acting skills. Amy Austria, who plays Luisa’s mother, is fine. Lorena is also an indelible presence. Sadly, Concepcion is mostly wooden here. His performance is bereft of the moral and emotional struggle that his character needs to contend with.
Clearly, Guillen opts her film to be seen from a woman’s perspective.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really forward any progressive ideal. It still pursues the antiquated image of the always suffering woman who is required to be supportive of the fallible husband. In fact, the strong women in the film are portrayed as villainous and conniving, while meekness and the ability to surrender are seen as virtues. Man and Wife is shockingly obsolete in the message it overtly delivers.
No commitment to innovation
Man and Wife just doesn’t commit to progress and innovation. The film is really just stale and old as time. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.