The typical Filipino film is at home in portraying families. It brings out one of the best dramatic scenes and emphatic dialogues primarily because relationships within the family are most relatable. Conflicts and dysfunction between parent and child or among siblings would always find an audience connecting to a particular character over another.
The production of Way Back Home has concocted a hearty recipe for Filipinos who love family drama. It revolves around two sisters Joanna and Jessica (played by Kathryn Bernardo and Julia Montes, respectively) who have been separated for 12 years.
It initially banked on the themes of sibling rivalry and a mother losing her child and the child finding its way back home. Such themes inevitably touch on forgiveness, acceptance, and belonging. Nothing beats mended relationships towards the end of a family film.
Aside from offering a universal theme, another winning element of Way Back Home is its cast. The plot and the screenplay could have turned out too familiar and clichéd, but the cast, both lead and supporting, delivered a convincing performance. Fortunately, they blended together even while depicting broken family ties.
Kathryn and Julia make their big screen debut after graduating from their remake of the classic Mara Clara soap. If one has witnessed the performance of the two newbies in ABS-CBN's teleserye, it would be apt to say that the two developed a knack for drama. Their acting has undeniably matured in this debut film, although it would be best that they deviate from playing rival characters in their upcoming projects.
In the Mara Clara series both Kathryn and Julia delivered gripping scenes. It was remarkable that they owned the characters of Mara David and Clara del Valle, roles that made Judy Ann Santos and Gladys Reyes household names. It was Kathryn and Julia's achievement to have detached the Kapamilya network's audience from the 1992 version that fortified the iconic Judy Ann-Gladys tandem. Kathryn and Julia as Mara and Clara were easy to fall in love with because they truly embraced their roles.
They worked with Mylene Dizon who played the ideal mother Susan, Bobby Andrews and Dimples Romana as the Del Valle couple, Gina Pareño as the wicked turned lovable grandmother; also Jhong Hillario who played the malevolent and hateful Gary.
In Way Back Home, Kathryn and Julia prove their talent once again. Auspiciously they are cast with seasoned actors and actresses.
In this Jerry Lopez-Sineneng directed film, Kathryn and Julia shot scenes with Agot Isidro who played their mother and Lotlot de Leon as the foster parent of the lost Joanna. The love teams of Kathryn and Enrique Gil, also of Julia and Sam Concepcion were just as promising. In fact, during the premiere night, fans kept screaming whenever Enrique and Sam appeared onscreen, sometimes drowning out the dialogue in the kilig scenes.
A good thing about Way Back Home is that the romance added excitement to the story. It was only realistic that the youth-oriented film added the young-love theme, and at its best it was portrayed as a minor plot.
Director Jerry Lopez-Sineneng has compared Kathryn and Julia to soap opera queens Judy Ann Santos and Claudine Barretto, respectively. (CLICK HERE to read related story).
While this could be true, one should applaud Julia Montes for deviating from the classic snotty, mean girl character who makes life miserable for the downtrodden Mara. It is Julia's strength to gain the sympathy of the audience while playing the angsty girl who harbors much pain. She has the ability to make her audience understand the pain her character is going through, and more importantly make them see where it is coming from. Julia was astounding.
On a minor note, Way Back Home has a bit of humor delivered mainly through "fish jokes" sprinkled throughout the movie. The film will be a delight not only to fans of Kathryn and Julia, but as well to families, in particular mothers and daughters. While Kathryn and Julia have found their home in dramas such as this, it would be interesting to see them venture into other genres. For now, hats off to both young actresses, and good luck to their future projects.
Way Back Home, which is graded B by the Cinema Evaluation Board, is now showing in cinemas nationwide.