In My Life challenged lead stars Vilma Santos, John Lloyd Cruz and Luis Manzano

by Mark Angelo Ching
Sep 2, 2009
The Star Cinema film In My Life marks the return of Vilma Santos to the big screen after five years. It also marks the first time that John Lloyd Cruz (left) and Luis Manzano agreed to have a kissing scene with each other, which was shot on Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

In In My Life, Star Cinema's newest film offering, Vilma Santos plays an aging teacher who resents the fact that her children are moving away from her as they are growing older. To battle loneliness, she moves to New York to live with her son, played by Luis Manzano. She then gets to meet her son's boyfriend, played by John Lloyd Cruz. She gets close to the boyfriend, but a string of tragedies threaten the close relationship.

Despite the gay theme, the movie's director Olivia Lamasan said that In My Life should not be treated solely as a gay movie.

"The concept is the story of a woman, a journey of a mom, and the friendship that blossomed between her and her gay son's lover," she said during the movie's press con last August 25 the Dolphy Theatre of ABS-CBN. "This is not a gay movie."

In My Life features the Star for All Seasons in an entirely different role. Known for her previous works as an activist nun (Sister Stella L.), a sexy dancer (Burlesk Queen), a suffering mother (Dekada ‘70), and a liberated woman (Bata, Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?), Vilma now plays a mom who can't accept the fact that there will come a time when her children will eventually leave her.

Writers Senedy Que and Raymond Lee said the role is tailor-fit for Vilma (as well as John Lloyd). The challenge, they said, was to find what role the award-winning actress hadn't done before.

"Lahat kami aware sa filmography ni Vilma... So ano yung ibibigay mo sa character na ma-eexcite pa si Vilma Santos. Dun kami nahirapan," said Raymond.

VILMA SANTOS. Vilma said she chose the Pinoy OFW movie In My Life as her comeback film because she feels "challenged" to do it.

"Kung wala yung excitement, hindi challenging yun sa iyo. Pero once na na feel mo na you're excited, the whole thing from the script actors shooting hanggang ipalabas na yan yung excitement mo nandun. That's very, very challenging for an artist," she said.

However, it took a while for her to accept the project, because it meant spending time away from her duties as the governor of Batangas. When Star Cinema offered the movie to her two years ago, she said she had to say no to it because she had just won the government seat.

"E, kung gagawin po namin yun at that time wala pa kong isang taon nagsisilbi as governor. Kaya nakiusap po ako baka puwedeng maka-isang taon lang po akong governor bago natin magawa uli," Vilma explained.

After some years of serving as the provinces' mother, Vilma finally said yes to play another one-of-a-kind mom role. She said she can never leave the biz.

"Kahit po siguro ngayong nasa pulitika na ko hindi po talaga maaalis talaga yung dugo kong artista. Talagang hinahanap ko po. Kapag nanonood ako ng TV hinanahanap ko talaga," the veteran actress explained.

In My Life, for her, is a very different experience.

"First time ako nagkaton ng ganitong itsura sa pelikula. And second, parang may pagka-comedy ba, yung character niya pero hindi naman siya nagpapatawa," she said.

When the children of Shirley (Vilma's character) grow up and begin to have lives of their own, she thinks that nobody loves her anymore.

"Yung character ko dito lihis na lihis sa totoo kong character sa buhay. Yung feeling ko dito hindi siya mahal. Cold. Parang may laging iniisip na negatibo. Which is kabaligtaran ng totoong character ko sa buhay," Vilma explained.

JOHN LLOYD CRUZ.In My Life, meanwhile, was a fulfilling movie for John Lloyd Cruz. He compared working with the Star for All Seasons and Director Olivia Lamasan as a skydiving trip.

"Parang yung experience when you first try sky diving. Parang mula sa pagsakay mo sa eroplano na parang wala kang choice kundi tumalon. Kasi pag di ka tumalon at pagbaba mo sa lupa, ang sama ng loob mo sa sarili mo. Hanggang pagtulog mo at pagtanda mo dadalhin mo yon.

"Kahit na first time ko makakasama si inang wala akong choice sabi ko harapin natin. Maging masaya man ako or maging fulfilled man ako o hindi. Para sa 'kin the experience along of working with Direk Olive and Ate Vi, it's quite enough for me, na ako hindi na sasama ang loob ko dahil hindi ko na-experience," the Box Office King explained.

John Lloyd added that he was more fascinated with how Vilma was in real life, than during shooting.

"Mas masarap po siyang pagmasdan sa likod ng camera. Dun ho kayong maraming makikitang magandang bagay tungkol kay Ate Vi... Kung paano makisama sa mga tao. Kung paano siya mag-asikaso, mula sa direktor ko, hanggang sa mga crew, pantay-pantay," John Lloyd said.

He also gushes about Ate Vi's cooking.

"[Na-miss ko po] kung paano niya kami patabain. Masarap po kasi yung tulingan," he revealed.

It was also the first time John Lloyd tackled a gay character in In My Life, where he had a screen kiss with screen partner Luis Manzano. But the Kapamilya actor said he wishes people won't go to the movie just to witness that particular scene, which was shot on Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

"Natatakot kaming ma-label ‘yung eksena as ‘kissing scene.' Hindi kasi siya basta kissing scene, it was an intimate scene... Sana kapag pumunta kayo sa sinehan hindi kayo nagaabang lang na ‘Uy! Magbra-brush na ‘yung lips nila!' Sana makita niyo ‘yung tunay na intensyon ng eksena at ‘yung laman ng puso ng dalawang characters," he explained.

John Lloyd shared his observations about Luis, the son of iconic stars Vilma Santos and Edu Manzano.

"Luis is really on top of his game sa pelikulang ito. Pag nakakita nyo siya sa set, kung gaano siya ka-focus, kung gaano siya ka-determinado na maka-deliver."

LUIS MANZANO. Direk Olive said that when she asked Luis Manzano to play the role of Mark, Shirley's gay son, she was so confident he would accept the project. She was shocked when he didn't.

"When I pitched it to him, I was actually confident because it was an opportunity for him to work with his mother, it was an opportunity for him to work in a drama. I got the shock of my life when he said no. Outright!" the director said.

But the director sees in Luis the "vulnerability and sensibility" she needed for the character, so she asked him to read the script first before disagreeing completely. Luis thankfully accepted the role after understanding the whole film concept.

Luis says, "Siguro at first, when it was presented to me, hindi sa wala akong tiwala kina Direk Olive. Iba kasi yung ini-explain sayo, iba yung may hard copy ka kung ano yung gagawin mo. After reading the script, may intimacies man, kailangan na kailangan talaga. Mas na-apreciate ko talaga yung story, so para sa 'kin either yes or yes."

Now that he had already finished shooting the movie, Luis said he learned to become a better actor.

"Namulat ako sa mundo nang acting talaga. Siyempre dati light. Konting kilig here, konting kilig there. It made me appreciate acting more. Mas nakita ko na may mas mataas na level ng acting," ended the actor who is also one of the hosts of Entertainment Live and ASAP '09.

SYNOPSIS. Shirley (Vilma Santos) is a woman who wants to be in control of everything. As a librarian in a public school, a simple glance from her makes students tremble in fear.

But in her family, Shirley's unwarranted intervention in the lives of her children and their families keeps her emotionally detached from them. Realizing that she has lost the command she once had, Shirley goes to New York to reunite with Mark (Luis Manzano), her estranged gay son who unknowingly suffers from colon cancer.

But living in New York comes with a cost. She has to live with her son's lover Noel (John Lloyd Cruz), who is an illegal immigrant. Whenever Mark is not around, Noel makes it a point to tour Shirley around the city even though he has to endure the mother's degrading behavior towards him.

Would Shirley finally achieve a happy ending in New York, with her son, or should she go back to the Philippines to seek her heart?

In My Life, produced by Star Cinema, will be screened in cinemas starting September 16, 2009.

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The Star Cinema film In My Life marks the return of Vilma Santos to the big screen after five years. It also marks the first time that John Lloyd Cruz (left) and Luis Manzano agreed to have a kissing scene with each other, which was shot on Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
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