‘Coming Home’ review: A struggle to sit through

Adolfo Alix, Jr.’s Coming Home is an irritating conundrum. 

It is a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be and ends up more confusing than affecting.

The most apparent

Let’s start with the most apparent.

Coming Home is undoubtedly a showcase of acting talent. Sylvia Sanchez, as the matriarch who welcomes home her philandering ex-husband to the displeasure of her children, is an enduring presence here. Even the various actors who play her adult children aren’t bad, with Edgar Allan de Guzman and Martin del Rosario shining in some of their dramatic encounters.

But then one of the central figures of the film is just absolutely awful. 

Jinggoy Estrada plays Sanchez’s husband with nary an understanding as to the emotions required of his character. He is as impassioned as a rock and as charismatic as a cactus in a desert. Supposedly big moments are ruined the moment he speaks his lines with a monotonous cadence that is reminiscent of some of the standard passages in a routine hearing in the Senate. 

The result is a melodrama that is desperate to burst with promised anger, joy, sadness, and remorse, except that it couldn’t, because there just isn’t enough talent in some of the cast. However, it could also be by design, since Alix directs Coming Home with his typical austerity. He is deliberate in the pacing of the soap opera and frames most of the scenes with hardly any pomp, his camera either still or languidly panning.

Simply put, Coming Home is impenetrable. 

It wants to be artful but its efforts are plebeian. It wants to dazzle, such as when Alix in one take attempts to evolve drama out of a birthday celebration gone awry, but it only fizzles. Most of its bids at being something worthwhile end up as failures.

Worth staying for

Yet there is something in Coming Home that is worth staying for despite such tedium.

Sure, its story is nothing new. In fact, it resembles Laurice Guillen’s Sa’yo Lamang (2010), where another unfaithful husband returns to the family he has left behind to make amends. Coming Home again features a suffering woman who quickly embraces the return of her spouse but what it somewhat subtly projects is a family where the men are problematic and whose salvation is restored by the virtues of one woman.

There is one surprisingly powerful scene in the film that might have made up for the film’s constellation of problems. 

Near the end of the film, Estrada kneels and pleads to De Guzman, tearfully asking for forgiveness. De Guzman miraculously returns the favor. The other sons come forward to take part in the belated reconciliation. From afar, Sanchez looks at the tableau of conflicted men finally cracking to reveal their real emotions. The scene’s a grand gesture, one that adds an important dynamic to a genre that has been turned into a cliché by repetition.

Dated, drab, and dull

That being said, Coming Home is still dated, drab, and dull.

While Alix adds some wit and thought to the affair, the film is still a struggle to sit through. – Rappler.com