Last Viewing: A good cry at first viewing

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Janice de Belen as the stone-hearted unwed mother (with Maro Panganiban as her autistic daughter): Probably her best performance so far

Had Janice de Belen turned down the role of a stone-hearted (as in “unfeeling”) unwed mother in the indie film Last Viewing, I’m sure she would have regretted it all her life. She’s so good in the movie that I couldn’t help but shed tears when I saw an advance CD copy of it, courtesy of Funfare’s Toronto-based “international correspondent” Ferdinand Lapuz (here for vacation).

“Yes, it’s true,” confirmed Janice whose last movie, Annie B., was shown as if ages ago (we miss good actresses like her so much that even a brief absence feels like eternity, right?). “When the role was offered to me, I was hesitant not only because I hadn’t done a movie for quite a while but also because, when I read the script, I found it ‘heavy drama’ and I doubted if I could still act. Besides, I was pressed for time because at that time, aside from my daily TV show (SIS on GMA), I was taking up culinary arts and I felt na ‘yung kailangan nilang oras ay hindi ko maibigay.”

The producer, Lisa Davis for Davis Entertainment, told Janice that they needed only six days of her tight schedule, and Janice, still reluctant, said, “Okay, but it would be staggered time.” No problem. Shoot!

But still, Janice said that she had to talk to her children who have been wanting to see her act again; they were babies when their mom did “heavy drama” and they were eager to see her cry and make them cry along with her. Okay, go!

As I said, I’m glad that Janice did Last Viewing which was written by Romualdo Avellanosa and directed by Ronaldo Bertubin (Sikil, Kurap, Lovebirds). The movie is so titled because Janice plays Laura Estrella, the supervisor of a funeral parlor’s crematorium — you know, the one who announces, “Last viewing na po!,” to the bereaved family before the dead is wheeled to the crematorium. Death has become so familiar and so common to Laura Estrella that she shows no reaction when her father, who hasn’t forgiven her for giving birth out of wedlock, dies in the province, shedding not a tear at his wake, showing no emotion at all, going through the tragedy like a zombie.

She registers not a hint of panic when her little daughter, an autistic, goes missing while they are shopping for her graduation dress in Quiapo, going through her daily chore as if nothing so heart-breaking has happened even as she continues to search for her missing daughter who, it turns out, is found by a kind-hearted and loving childless couple.

In short, Laura Estrella has become like the cadavers that she deals with day in and day out. A living dead.

That’s why when, in the end, she finds her missing daughter and finally — finally!!! — shows emotion, you can’t help but sympathize with her and feel for her and cry with her, especially when she hugs the daughter who was able to say “Mama” to her caretaker parents but not to the real one who constantly nagged her to utter that magic word.

That’s a very touching scene in the movie tightly-directed by Bertubin who has his material in complete control from beginning to end.

Cheers to Janice who gives probably the best performance of her career — so far.

Of course, the other stars help make Last Viewing “good viewing,” something that should be seen by people of all ages, not only mothers wed or unwed, including Sherwin Ordoñez as Janice’s little brother, Leandro Baldemor as Janice’s subordinate, Angel Jacob as the childless wife and Tommy Abuel as the owner-manager of the funeral parlor. And, yes, Maro Panganiban who plays Janice’s autistic daughter.

Asked what was on her mind while playing Laura Estrella, Janice said, “Automatically, as a mother I thought of my own children, that’s why I could easily relate to Laura Estrella. It made me think, ‘What if the same thing happened to my children?’ A mother could lose her sanity if something tragic happened to her child.”

Didn’t she have a phobia for, hmmmm, funeral parlors?

“Actually, they asked me that before we started shooting, ‘Hindi ka ba takot sa patay?’ Sabi ko, ‘Hindi!’ Was I scared of funeral parlors? No, I was not.”

Like me, what Janice finds most touching is the ending.

“Mabigat sa dibdib,” she said. “Grabe talaga! Even when they were just relating to me how the ending would be done, iyak na ako nang iyak.”

I guarantee that you, too, will feel the same way not only at first viewing but even at second or even more viewings.

(Note: Last Viewing will have a premiere on July 28, 7 p.m. at SM Megamall Cinema 6. Its regular showing in Metro Manila starts on Aug. 5).

ricky lo/philstar

2 comments on “Last Viewing: A good cry at first viewing

  1. excited na ko to see my idol again in the big screen. hope tuloy tuloy na to. we need a very good actress now, ngayon pa di na active sina guy and vi. comparable naman talaga si ms. janice de belen kina nora at vilma when it comes to acting, di ba nga grandslam nomination siya sa rosenda, from mina films directed by laurice guillen , its just that di sya nanalo kasi kalaban nya ang superstar(bilangin ang mga bituin sa langit) at ang star for all seasons(pahiram ng isang umaga). so sana idol tuloy tuloy na to , dont u worry , nandito pa din kaming mga fans mo , solid pa din sayo.go go go

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