Angry, funny movie on unwanted pregnancy
It can be melodramatic at times, like a Star Cinema drama
The opening scene in Anna Isabelle Matutina’s 12 Weeks, in which Max Eigenmann’s character Alice is interviewed by a counselor, calls to mind the superb Sundance abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
But the similarities end there.
Set in 2017, 12 Weeks is a dramedy about a 40-year-old single woman, Alice, who discovers she’s pregnant.
Eigenmann’s performance as the sassy, stubborn, strong-willed single woman is captivating. The camera loves her — it captures her anger, rebelliousness and indecisions in the way she lights her cigarette, walks in her fiery red stilettos, and lets out steam while playing an online game.
Stuck in the most critical phase of pregnancy, the first trimester, or 12 weeks, she goes to her best friend Lorna (Claudia Enriquez) to help her get rid of what she calls “a bunch of cells” from her womb.
Alice also has a lot on her plate as she puts up with a toxic, clingy young boyfriend (Vance Larena), a nagging mother (Bing Pimentel), and dealing with her NGO work in the midst of the Marawi siege.
While the ending is predictable, it’s difficult not to get stressed out by Alice’s condition. Hers is is a high-risk, geriatric pregnancy — and this is perhaps the movie’s primary source of tension.
You find yourself caring for Alice, concerned about her welfare and stability.
12 Weeks juxtaposes martial law, abortion and feminism in the plot.
But perhaps the strongest statement from Alice is, not every woman wants to be a mother. It‘s something Filipino culture often fails to understand — hence, the stigma on single and childless women.
Writer-director Matutina achieved the right mix of drama, tension and humor in this engaging, conflict-riddled movie.
However, it can be melodramatic at times, like a Star Cinema drama, but with an indie treatment.
Its best moments are the understated scenes and the humorous ones. Its weakness is its moments of histrionics.
Enriquez as Alice’s best friend is superb in her natural acting, but her character is insufferable. Instead of being frank, her Lorna comes off as perpetually angry and verbally abusive — not like a “best friend” at all.
There is an “anger transference” going on. Alice is verbally abused by Lorna, and she channels it to her coworker (Nor Domingo).
She is nagged by her mother, and she is also a bully to her boyfriend.
The shouting matches can be annoying and over the top, but 12 Weeks is nevertheless compelling for its conflict and humor. A mesh of mainstream and art, it’s bound to be appreciated by a wide audience.
3 out of 5 stars
‘12 Weeks’ is in the main competition of the ongoing Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival
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