Beware of movie trailers. Some are so good at setting high expectations that the actual films fail to deliver. Take the current Metro Manila Film Festival’s “Family Matters” and “Deleter,” for examples.
The “Family Matters” trailer promises the second coming of “Tanging Yaman,” that classic tearjerker from the 2000 MMFF about a big dysfunctional global Filipino family that’s forced to come together to care for its ailing matriarch.
The actual “Family Matters” movie is far less complex and ambitious. While “Tanging Yaman” was set against the backdrop of the Filipino diaspora abroad and the global financial crisis of the late 1990s, “Family Matters” is content to coast on the oft-visited narrative waters of generational gaps.
The central conflict between the old couple and their children is ostensibly about the former wanting to return to their original home after they try living in the latter’s houses, upon the children’s insistence, and not feeling at home in any of them.
Essentially, however, “Family Matters” is about how matters have devolved from the warm, deeply rooted, very personal we-know-everyone-inside-and-out bondedness in the old world to the rather cold, gadget-obsessed, hardly-speaking, each-one-in-their-own-world relations that pass for “relationships” today.
There’s no real tension among the huge cast of characters: The family is quite emotionally intact and psychologically stable. And much of the old couple’s journey through their children’s houses is played more for laughs.
The movie is rather slight and mostly handled with a gentle touch that way, served with more than a pinch of humor even in some of its dramatic set pieces, making it more of a light comedy than a full-on drama.
“Family Matters,” the movie, is agreeable, if a bit ambling and mallow-soft. It’s okay, but it’s not what the trailer promised.
“Deleter” is another case of underdelivery. The trailer promises a fresh take on the horror genre, setting it in the previously unexplored milieu of social media content moderation.
The movie does present a lot of talk about how toxic this line of work can be (a deleter is someone who decides which uploaded content to delete or to uphold), to the point of causing mental health issues in less steely workers. In fact, this is practically the only thing on the movie’s mind in its first half.
But it’s all lip service: The movie does not probe how exposure to a constant barrage of dirty, debased, and debasing online stuff alters worldviews and leads to mental and psychological scarring that wreaks havoc on the workers’ lives outside of the workplace. Any discussion of sociopolitical issues hinted at in the trailer is also left off the table.
The scares don’t really kick in until the film’s second half when the central mystery finally starts to unravel. There’s clever use of narrative and visual devices and a lot of sophisticated technical skill on display here as the movie ups the dread and the thrills towards the climax.
But everything is in the service of a conflict reveal that’s not intrinsically related to the film’s techno premise and a fairly generic story. After all that’s said (in the first half) and done (in the second), “Deleter” is your usual avenging ghost horror flick, albeit one given a shiny new techno dress.
But how well lead star Nadine Lustre wears it. As the hardened content moderator struggling with grief and guilt, and scarred for life by a childhood trauma, she gives an unshowy, steadily simmering performance that almost manages to fill in the many blanks in the script. Only with her does the movie deliver more than what the trailer promises.
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