Rosario: Movie Review

A story that must be told and a movie that must be seen ..
OVER the last few years, the entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival have become formulaic—a couple of comedies, a couple of scary movies, throw in a drama/love story and an animated/fantasy film, and that

Actress Jennylyn Mercado portrays a liberated balikbayan in the 1920s

makes for the lineup. While there are a few movies that tried to go against the norm, they were often forgettable and mediocre at best. 

Then came Rosario.

Rosario is a period film set in the 1920s and tells the story of Rosario Herrera, the grandmother of TV5 Chairman and business wiz Manny Panglinan. 

According to Albert Martinez, who directed the movie, it took them five years before the movie’s principal photography even started; most of that time he said was spent researching about the family of Herrera and the era in which her story took place.

Those years of preparations paid off as the movie successfully takes the audience back to a time of prosperity for the Philippines. It was also evident that the producers spared no expense in finding the best places to recreate each scene. Most of the locations looked very authentic—from the tobacco fields and the houses and offices of Binondo, to the more than 600 elaborate costumes designed by Miki Hahn.

The look of the film is further accentuated by the use of a very advanced camera called the Alexa. Martinez says there are only three Alexa cameras; the one they used; another is in the US being used by Martin Scorcese; and the third in Europe.

The story begins with the arrival of Rosario portrayed by Jennylyn Mercado, from New York (or Nueva York as they say in the movie) for a vacation at their hacienda. The daughter of Don Enrique (Phillip Salvador) and Doña Adela (Eula Valdez), Rosario was the epitome of beauty and grace. However, perhaps because of her experiences in New York she had become more liberated in her ways and thinking. There, she meets and falls in love with Vicente (Yul Servo), an older man who manages the tobacco plantation of Rosario’s family. When her father discovers their scandalous affair, he unleashes his anger on Vicente and sends Rosario to a convent. 

She escapes, and elopes with Vicente to Manila where they raise a family. She discovers happiness in motherhood but her marital bliss soon starts to crumble as she finds herself trapped once again, this time by Vicente, who has prevented her from even leaving the house to see her dying parents. Her marriage further falls apart when Vicente becomes ill with tuberculosis and she is lured to committing adultery by Alberto (Dennis Trillo). What happens next is a tale of full of guilt, heartache and sacrifice as told by Jesus (Dolphy).

Martinez said they used 90 percent live audio to capture the real emotions of the scene instead of letting the actors dub their lines. The movie’s musical score, which was done in Hollywood and Thailand, complemented the scenes quite well and set the mood in the absence of dialogue.

Martinez makes an impressive directorial debut thanks to a stellar cast that included Sid Lucero, Isabel Oli, Ricky Davao, Rita Avila, Chanda Romero and Liza Lorena. There have been lots of talk about Mercado winning the best actress award, and the young actress truly fit the titular role, but for me it was Sid Lucero and Dolphy who gave the best performances in the most crucial scenes of the movie.

The character of Rosario isn’t someone you could instantly relate to. In fact, it would be much easier to hate her and call her stupid for all the obvious mistakes she did. Yet as her character goes through all her ordeals, she will also take you through a whirlwind of emotions; it would be hard not to feel sympathy and pity for her. In the end, you’d want to forgive Rosario yourself, in behalf of all those people that didn’t. 
Maybe, it’s because underneath it all, there is a piece of Rosario in each and every one of us—a part that fell in love, a part that made mistakes, or a part that sacrificed happiness not—because we wanted to but because we had to.

We’ve often complained about the lack of good Philippine movies, yet we seldom make the effort when something this good comes along. The movie isn’t perfect, as I’m sure the feminists will have their say, and the historians will eventually find some inaccuracies. There are also scenes that tend to stretch a bit long and going through the length and pacing of the movie might not be easy for the ordinary movie viewer. Still, Rosario stands way above the rest of the other Metro Manila Film Festival entries, not just because of its controversial theme or its superb production values, but because it proves there is new hope for the Philippine movie industry. 

Iya Villania, the calendar girl

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