BIGKIS (Neal Tan, 2014)
As an advocacy film, BIGKIS (INTERTWINED) gets its message across. The state of maternal healthcare in the Philippines is downright depressing, with mothers seated on the floor of public hospitals due to shortage of beds, medical equipment and hospital staff. The baby better be gaping through the birth canal before the mother receives serious medical attention.
Such social issue has been featured countless times in local documentaries and even in a feature film (2011's BAHAY BATA), but BIGKIS pushes the envelope further by bridging a connection between mother and child by means of breastfeeding, and in doing so, promoting breastfeeding in the process.
As a drama, the film tends to squeeze too much tragedy from the downtrodden lives of its characters that a lot of the dialogue feels staged for us to feel sorry for their countless miseries. Mariel (LJ Reyes), a teenage mother deals with an unwanted pregnancy and worse, the abandonment of her baby's father (Pancho Magno). Edel (Lauren Young), on the other hand is a nursing aide who remains idealistic despite the depressing condition at work that she faces everyday. Both women will eventually face a catharsis between a mother and a child.
We get the issues the film wants to be heard; we feel for Mariel and Edel, and for Perla Bautista in a passionate role as grandmother to LJ Reyes; even Rosanna Roces, playing aunt to Lauren Young's character gets an emotional spotlight towards the end of the film. But some of the characters does not really take flight.
Sue Prado, who plays a nurse complains and complains about the rotten system in the hospital, and yet the film offers no solution, or a glimmer of solution at least. The overt preaching about how the patients endlessly complain, and how the nurses are short staffed does not help.
Evelyn Vargas, who is one of the hospital patients makes for some much needed comic relief, but at a later scene, director Neil Tan resorts to cartoonish slapstick which makes the film's tone uneven, and distracting.
Even Enzo Pineda as a fellow nurse to Lauren Young is treated as a stock character, with nothing to do but complain about the job.
Some of the scenes range from hard selling (Lauren Young in voice overs, about selflessness, motherhood and what have you) to downright ridiculous (the confrontation scene at the end between LJ Reyes and Pancho Magno which started with LJ leaving the hospital and nobody stopping her?!).
Yet the film's saving grace comes in the form of Rich Asuncion, who plays another mother about to give birth in the hospital, and in one scene sits down besides LJ Reyes and shares her insights on motherhood, about how painful it is to lose a child because they are of the same flesh as yours.
Also, the musical score which sounded like it came from an afternoon soap in the scene where LJ Reyes breastfeeds her child needs to be addressed. I mean, seriously.
I think the film wants to equally showcase the plight of both Mariel and Edel, but Edel's story is underdeveloped. We never really get the story behind her idealism and struggle. Meanwhile, LJ Reyes is in top form as Mariel, and in the scenes following her birth to her child and the ensuing escape from the hospital, she shines in her silent contemplation.