Thursday, July 5, 2018

Review of THE MAID IN LONDON: Travails of a "TNT"

July 6, 2018

There was not really much hype or promotion about this film before it was released this week. The title made me recall the Jennifer Lopez movie "Maid in Manhattan" (2002), and thought probably this could be a long-delayed Filipino adaptation. Just my luck that this was the only film starting on the time I arrived at the mall, so I decided to give it a try despite my better judgement. The girl at the ticket booth warned me that I was the only one in the theater for that screening. Should I take that as a warning?

Ambitious market vendor Margo (Andi Eigenmann) had to put her big plans on hold when she was forced to marry tricycle driver Ben (Matt Evans). Fast forward to 10 years and two kids later, her family went through one misfortune after the other -- deep debt, illegal recruitment, heart attack, murder, incarceration, and the like. This drove Margo to abject desperation on how to make ends meet for their daily needs, especially with her sickly daughter and invalid father. 

Margo swallowed her pride and fidelity by borrowing a big amount of money from Jayson (Polo Ravales), a wealthy former suitor now also married. This was so that she, along with her friend Faye (Alexis Navarro) can go to London to work as a chambermaid in London, albeit illegally as a tourist without a work permit. However, a sudden confession from her mother Melissa (Rina Reyes) on one of their long-distance phone conversations would turn Margo's tide of fortune in a major way.

Andi Eigenmann tried her best to portray Margo well, but she was limited by the pitiful characterization of her role by the script. Matt Evans was even more unfortunate with all the illogical and stupid things Ben had to do. Polo Ravales was made to dress and act like a young DOM. Rina Reyes was wasted in the way Melissa's most vital scene reduced to a mere voice on the phone! The amateurish acting of the largely unknown supporting actors did not help at all. Very self-conscious, they seem like they were still in need of more acting workshops.

The Maid was not in London until probably an hour and a half after the movie began. Until then, we had to wallow in the detailed depiction of Margo's miserably melodramatic life in Manila as she suffered practically all the typical misfortunes we see in Pinoy films heaped upon her and her family. This part of the film felt tiresome because of its cliched familiarity, and at times even amusing because of its predictability. 

When in London, things became more interesting as we were shown the difficult situation of illegal Filipino workers there. We see how they survive mainly through the kindness and support of fellow Filipinos who were willing to hire them despite having no papers. They simply disappear under the radar, lest they attract the attention of immigration officers and be deported. One really gets the sense of danger they lived every single day.

The quality of the camera work was unrefined in those Manila scenes, as if this was shot back in the 1990s. Even if they were in London, it was odd how the camera work was still looking so shoddy such that the Thames looked as plain as Pasig River. This was so unlike recent films shot abroad like "Meet Me in St. Galen" and "Sid & Aya," and "Never Not Love You" (which was also shot in London), where the foreign cities looked so glamorous.

Despite this being rated PG by the MTRCB, it contained two scenes of sexual assault and one scene of bludgeoning to death with a hammer. I think an R-13 would still be generous.

The extremely maudlin melodrama of the Manila scenes notwithstanding, I thought those eye-opening scenes of TNT (meaning "Tago Nang Tago" or "always hiding", a euphemism for illegal aliens) Filipino OFW's in London saved the film overall. The 11th hour twist in the story, even though how from out-of-the-blue it was, at least gave this nearly 2-1/2 hour film (with story and direction by BL Panganiban) an exciting emotional spark at its climax. 4/10. 

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