‘D’Ninang’ review: Dreary godmother
The problem with GB Sampedro’s D'Ninang is indecisiveness.
It isn’t a bad movie. It’s just that its promise is derailed by mismatched intentions and misdirection.
The plot doesn’t beg for a comedic treatment.
In fact, its grooves are akin to Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters (2018), a drama about a family surviving through petty criminality whose specific circumstances lead to moments of humor. In Sampedro’s film, the family, headed by Ditas (Ai Ai delas Alas), is also eking out its existence through various forms of thievery. Everything is sweet and dandy until Ditas’ former flame dies, which forces her to take into her peculiar household her biological daughter (Kisses Delavin), disrupting their illicit business as they all pretend that their means and ways are all above board.
There are scenes that are so absurd, they are funny on their own.
What ultimately becomes the film’s undoing is Sampedro’s insistence on infusing the entire film with manufactured humor, those unsubtle details that beg the audience to laugh. The narrative doesn’t call for inanity or ridiculousness. It thrives in balancing drama and levity, shifting from depictions of what supposedly should be compelling emotions to droll moments that arise from the fact that the situations are by themselves worth a chuckle.
Sampedro is sadly incapable of a balancing act. He prefers to be loud and unsubtle, when the best option is to let the scenes work the magic. D’Ninang ends up grossly fake when it could have been endearing and charming.
Doesn’t know what it wants to be
D’Ninangdoesn’t know what it wants to be.
It doesn’t know if it wants to be an boisterous comedy or a humorous family drama. Because Sampedro is confused, the performances in the film end up as bewildered as they are bewildering. De Las Alas, for example, inelegantly jumps from being the outrageous comedienne she has become known for in films like Wenn Deramas’ Ang Tanging Ina (2003) to the dramatic actress she's been desperately trying to be known for with films like Louie Ignacio’s Area (2016) and School Service (2018).
It doesn’t help that De Las Alas wears a preposterous wig that renders her impossible to take seriously, even in the scenes where she tries her best to commit to the gravity and sincerity of the situation.
The best performers in the D’Ninang are the actors and actresses who aren’t cast to add further comedic flavor to the project.
Delavin is a much-needed sobering presence. The scenes that she shares with onscreen partner McCoy De Leon are charming because the chemistry isn’t as forced as the gags and jokes. Newcomer Angel Guardian, who plays Ditas’ adopted daughter, is also a revelation. What’s apparent here is that the performers who have least to prove and have not been relegated to stereotyped roles are the ones who are granted with the most flexibility to interpret their characters.
D’Ninang is a missed opportunity.
Instead of becoming a family drama tainted with dark comedy, it ends up becoming a dreary mess. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.