Review: ‘Elena’s Redemption’

Interchangeable with a dozen other semi-glossy Philippine soaps, "Elena's Redemption" purports to condemn the abuse of country girls lost in the big city, only to exploit them for its own dubious aims. Pic stands no chance with offshore auds.

Interchangeable with a dozen other semi-glossy Philippine soaps, “Elena’s Redemption” purports to condemn the abuse of country girls lost in the big city, only to exploit them for its own dubious aims. Pic stands no chance with offshore auds.

The suds start with Elena (bland Maricel Soriano) getting handed a suitcase full of money. She’s then brutally raped, off-camera, by the lawyer with the bucks, which are apparently part of some coverup scheme. What Elena’s expected to keep mum about is revealed when, battered and bruised, she heads home to a remote village. At first, the young woman has a case of deep-dish amnesia, but

her understanding mother – with zero help from loutish Dad – manages to cajole a series of flashback vignettes from Elena.

In stop-start fashion, we see the uneducated bumpkin’s arrival in Manila, and the beginnings of her employment as a maid by a wealthy, no-nonsense doctor (Dina Bonnevie). Problems start when Elena sparks with the doc’s working-class hubby (Tonton Gutierrez), already chafing under the strains of sex-role reversal – he works at his wife’s clinic, where all the other employees taunt him for his

subservient status. He’s also pining away for a baby, but his cold, bossy wife – surprise, surprise – is barren.

Guess who isn’t. Elena turns into breeding stock for the frustrated suburbanites, with disastrous results for all concerned, especially the viewer. A climactic scene, in which the trio’s uncertain joy gives way to terrible tragedy, becomes unintentional farce when the “baby” – obviously a

feeble rag doll – goes flying through the air.

Helmer Carlos Siguion-Reyna heaps much sympathy on his passive heroine, and some on the class-jumping hubby, while most of the blame goes to the evil doctor for giving up her narrowly defined femininity. Although some care is put into mother-daughter rapprochement in village scenes, any call for sisterhood is blotted out by pic’s admonition against people – especially women – forgetting their places.

Tech credits are tube level, if that, with flashback setups confusingly inconsistent, dubbing too loud and crude, and colors often washed-out and dreary-looking. New Age-ish piano score makes for a pleasant change from the usual synth drone, but this soon grows stale as well. Original title means “Dream Within Reach,” but this “Redemption” hardly reaches for anything at all – and what it does grasp, non-Philippine auds won’t want.

Elena's Redemption

Philippine

Production

A Reynafilms (Manila) production. Produced by Armida Siguion-Reyna. Directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna. Screenplay by Bibeth Orteza, from a story by Elsa Martinez-Coscouella.

Crew

Camera (color), Charlie Peralta; editor, Jesus Navarro; music, Ryan Cayabyab; production design, Edgar Littaua, Edel Tempelnuevo; sound, Ramon Reyes; assistant director, May de los Santos. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 8, 1996. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Maricel Soriano, Dina Bonnevie, Tonton Gutierrez, Michael De Mesa, Daria Ramirez, Cherry Pie Picache. (Tagalog and English dialogue)
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