A topical dilemna for Filipinas — whether to take lucrative long-term jobs abroad and provide for their families’ future or stay home and play a more active role in their children’s lives — propels “Anak,” femme helmer Rory B. Quintos’ seventh feature. Vivid hook for domestic conflict makes this well-acted drama compelling until hitherto restrained approach succumbs to bathos in the last quarter. Offshore, best prospects outside fest circuit lie in TV sales.
Bubbly, indomitable Josie (Vilma Santos) is thrilled to be returning home at last, having spent several years as a live-in nanny for Hong Kong yuppies — and enduring some serious mistreatment in that capacity.
Loaded with presents and savings to invest in a business scheme, she gets a big welcome from everyone but her own children. Latter three have grown up without her, suffering especially since their father died in a workplace accident. While little Daday (Sheila May Alvero) and teenage Michael (Baron Geisler) soon get over their initial awkwardness, eldest offspring Carla (Claudine Barretto) remains bitterly resentful toward mom’s perceived abandonment. She goads Josie with serial boyfriends and open hostility before running away, straight into drug-abusive squalor.
Limning complex emotions with subtlety and humor, pic resists melodrama until the dam abruptly bursts after 90 minutes; ill-judged pileup of crying scenes, plot crises, and more crying ensues. Josie’s final decision to leave for H.K. once again makes little sense, beyond its providing an excuse for “Anak’s” fourth hysterical-sobbing-at-the-airport sequence.
That’s too bad, since early reels observe parent-child relationships with considerable delicacy. Quintos’ fluid handling of potentially claustrophobic, mawkish material underplays script’s more obvious gambits until they overwhelm pic. Veteran local star Santos is in fine form, while Barretto lends impressive shading to what might have been a stock sexy “bad girl” role. Tech package is polished.