“The Flor Contemplacion Story” is an often stirring re-creation of the true-life story of a Filipino maid who was executed in Singapore in 1995 for allegedly killing a co-worker and a young boy. A strong performance by movie star Nora Aunor dominates the film, which is at once a touching family saga and a forceful look at social injustice. However, unrestrained melodramatics and excessive running time undermine overall impact of a story whose facts are still in dispute.
Extreme poverty and an accompanying sense of hopelessness have driven many Filipinos out of their country, seeking employment abroad. The plight of women employed as domestic workers has been a major problem, with many reportedly suffering torture, rape and other abuse from their masters.
A devoted mother of four, Flor Contemplacion (Aunor) went to Singapore to work as a maid, where her employers treated her fairly. However, in March 1995, she was arrested and hanged for allegedly murdering another maid, Delia Maga (Amy Austria), and the Singaporean boy Delia was taking care of.
Framed as a mystery, the tale uses flashbacks that not only enrich the story, but successfully move the film beyond a case of social outrage into a heart-wrenching exploration of women’s inferiority in a patriarchal system. Indeed, Flor’s long absences from home drove her weak hubby Efren (Julio Diaz) into an open relationship with a mistress and forced her two older children into early marriages. In one of the film’s many touching scenes, Flor visits her family, but she can’t distinguish between her twins.
According to the film, there’s no doubt that Flor was innocent and that her confession was obtained through physical torment. Pic offers political background that implicates the Philippine government with cruel negligence and incompetence in the case.
Aunor invests her role with powerful emotions and utmost conviction, showing how a humble, self-sacrificing mother became a victim of corruption and abuse — and later, a national symbol adored by her countrymen. A title card informs that , in April 1995, the Philippine government downscaled diplomatic relations with Singapore.
Factual story is so engaging that it almost overcomes the trappings of a sappy melodramatic style, one that tends to milk the raw sentixments in every situation to their maximum effect.