"Huwag kang magmagaling! Dahil wala kang alam!" - Shirley
Basic Information: Directed: Olivia M. Lamasan; Story: Raymond Lee, Olivia M. Lamasan; Screenplay: Raymond Lee, Senedy Que, Olivia M. Lamasan; Cast: Vilma Santos, John Lloyd Cruz, Luis Manzano, Tirso Cruz III; Executive producer: Malou N. Santos; Original Music: Nonong Buencamino; Cinematography: Charlie Peralta; Film Editing: Marya Ignacio; Production Design: Elfren Vibar; Theme Song: “Something New In My Life” Performed by Sarah Geronimo; Official Web-site: www.inmylife.starcinema.com.ph
Plot Description: Santos plays Shirley, a public school librarian who wants to be in control of everything. Her unwarranted intervention in the lives of her children and their families leads to their emotional detachment from each other. Feeling she has lost her command over her children, she flies to New York to reunite with his estranged son, Mark (Manzano) only to find out that her son is gay and she has to live with him and his lover, illegal immigrant Noel (Cruz). As Shirley struggles to deal with the situation and with living in the Big Apple, she discovers that being gay is not the only huge secret that Mark is keeping. Discovering what this is will change Shirley’s life forever. – mannythemovieguy.com
Film Achievement: Star Awards: Movie of the Year – Star Cinema; Best Actress – Vilma Santos; Best Actor – John Llyod Cruz; Best Supporting Actor – Luis Manzano; Best Screenplay – Lee, Que, Lamasan; Best Cinematography Nomination – Charlie Peralta; Best Editing Nomination – Marya Ignacio; Best Musical Score Nomination – Nonong Buencamino; Best Production Design Nomination – Efren Vivar; Best Sound Nomination – Albert Michael Idioma; Gawad Tanglaw: Best Film – Star Cinema; Best Actress – Ms. Vilma Santos; Best Actor – John Lloyd Cruz; Best Supporting Actor – Luis Manzano; Best Director – Olivia Lamasan; Golden Screen: Best Actress Nomination – Vilma Santos; Best Actor Nomination – John Llyod Cruz; Best Supporting Actor Nomination – Luis Manzano; Best Motion Picture Drama Nomination – Star Cinema; Best Director Nomination – Olivia Lamasan; Best Screenplay Nominations – Lee, Lamasan, Que; Best Cinematography Nomination – Charlie Peralta; Best Editing Nomination – Marya Ignacio; Best Production Design Nomination – Elfren Vivar; Best Sound Nomination – Albert Michael Idioma; Best Musical Score Nomination – Nonong Buencamino; Gawad Urian: Best Actress Nomination – Vilma Santos; Best Actor Nomination – John Llyod Cruz; FAMAS: Best Picture Nomination – Star Cinema; Best Actor Nomination – - John Lloyd Cruz; Best Supporting Actor Nomination – Luis Manzano; Best Director Nomination – Olivia M. Lamasan; Best Cinematography Nomination – Charlie Peralta; Best Sound Nomination – Albert Michael Idioma; Best Screenplay and Story Nominations – Raymond Lee/Olivia Lamasan; Best Musical Score Nomination – Nonong Buencamino; Best Art Direction Nomination – Elfren Vivar
‘In My Life’ Earns a Record P20M On First Day - Star Cinema’s “In My Life,” the ABS-CBN movie outfit’s grandest film offering for 2009, earned a record P20 million in ticket sales on its first day of screening on Wednesday. This was according to the data released by Star Cinema’s Booking and Distribution Department, “SNN: Showbiz News Ngayon” reported. Under the direction of well-acclaimed director Olivia Lamasan, “In My Live” is posing to surpass the total earnings of Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos’ 2002 Star Cinema film, “Dekada ’70.” “Dekada ’70″ was Santos last film project before she agreed to do “In My Life.” “In My Life” lead stars Luis Manzano, John Lloyd Cruz and Santos were grateful to all moviegoers who supported their film. “Maraming salamat po sa inyo. It’s a happy movie. Medyo may kurot sa puso. Buhay niyo po ito, iyong nanay niyo at kung paano magmahal nang unconditional,” Santos said. Cruz added: “Sa totoo lang hindi ako makapaniwala na natapos ko itong movie at naka-trabaho ko si Ate Vi, si inang (Lamasan). I will be forever grateful sa naabot kong ito.” Manzano also thanked all those who commended him for his genuine portrayal of a gay man. “Hindi po biro ang pinanggalingan naming lahat. So the fact na masabi iyon na I gave justice to Mark’s role, napakalaking bagay na po noon para sa akin. Thank you very much,” Manzano said. – ABS-CBN News, Sep 17 2009
In My life screened in selected cities in United States and Canada in October of 2009 with huge success. The film was ranked 13th on the All-time highest-grossing local films, earning 2.89M US$ (135.74M PH).
Film Reviews: In My Life, which stars Vilma Santos as a librarian, opens on September 16 and, predictably enough, articles about the film are beginning to appear. In “Direk Olive’s ‘In My Life’ is bold and fresh,” by Walden Sadiri (Manila Bulletin, 2009), its director Olive Lamasan is quoted as saying that she helped Santos “rehearse how a librarian walks and looks ‘losyang.’” If this were an article for a scholarly journal, I suppose some questions that could be asked are: Is there such a thing as a “librarian walk”? Are all librarians losyang (Tagalog slang for unglamorous)? But it probably isn’t fair to ask such questions of an article that only seeks to promote the release of a soon-to-be shown film. I think it’s important to remember that Lamasan is talking about a specific character in a particular film. And that it would be a mistake to focus only on this one phrase in the 20-paragraph article or judge the entire movie based on how the librarian is portrayed. I don’t think there was any intention to characterize ALL librarians as losyang. But we also cannot deny that this stereotypical librarian exists. I look at the photo above and remember that more than a few librarians I’ve met dress exactly that way. Should the director perhaps have made sure that all kinds of librarians were represented in her film? It’s not her responsibility to do so and that’s not really how movies are made. Librarians can probably condemn the movie and/or call for a boycott, but what will that accomplish? I think it’s much better to take this opportunity to say that, yes, there is an existing stereotype, but there are so many different kinds of librarians AND promote what these librarians are doing that do not fit the stereotype. The reason the image of the losyang librarian persists is that people do not see any other kind of librarian in media.
This is the reason I always identify myself as a librarian AND started putting my photo on my blog. If we do not present alternative images of librarians, there is no way the stereotype will be replaced. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We can’t just leave it to others to tell the people who we are; that’s why the stereotypes about librarians continue to flourish. We have to be the ones to go out there and tell people who we are. It’s not enough to complain about inaccurate images of librarians; we must be able to present alternative, positive images in movies, books and, yes, blogs =) An article entitled “It’s hip to be a librarian” appeared in the same newspaper last month. A few weeks before that, the influence of Reynaldo G. Alejandro as a librarian on a young boy was specifically mentioned by the grown journalist who benefited from his guidance. It is my hope that more journalists will consider doing more stories about non-stereotypical librarians on TV and in print. And that librarians will be more conscious about promoting their profession as well. - The Filipino Librarian READ MORE
The best thing about it is that it got made. Star Cinema, the most mainstream of movie studios in the country, lagged behind the so-called gay bandwagon, perhaps by strict design: It’s not supposed to be their territory. Homosexuality, believed to be a niche concern, presumably falls outside the realm of Star Cinema’s broad, PG-13 market. Yet by some dint of miracle, it casts Vilma Santos, one of the biggest stars ever, and a present provincial governor no less, in the main role of a mother to a gay son, played by Luis Manzano, Santos’ real life son. And then, oh boy, in the role of Manzano’s lover, the country’s current most bankable romantic leading man, John Lloyd Cruz. It’s directed by Olivia Lamasan, whose female-centered melodramas have come to emblematize the Star Cinema brand. With such trusted names, is there still reason for the public to shy away from the gay topic? The uncanny hat-trick of In My Life is that the bandwagon it jumps is not the gay one, but still the female-centered family melodrama that Star Cinema helped galvanize, and also the OFW movie — a drama mapping the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers and their families — perhaps one of only two originally Filipino genres to emerge from our lifetime. (The other one is the macho dancer movie.) This one is largely set in New York City, and it’s centrally the woman’s story, with the gay elements tempered and almost subliminal. That is the film’s winning strategy, but also its debilitating blind spot. What suffers is specificity. What do we know of the two guys’ relationship? Most of it is left to the imagination, or, more accurately, to That Which We Know But Never Show Or Talk About. Is their relationship even sexual? The film’s one kiss, which arrives late in the movie, is a swift, barely-brushed lip-to-limp. It’s also meant to express apology and forgiveness — you know, the wholesome, Catholic facet of love. It’s hard for me to muster enough love for a movie that’s intentionally castrated and guilty.
But it’s not just the sex that’s missing. I vaguely get to understand the lives of these two gay men in New York City. For example, what is Mark’s job and why is he so damn busy? There’s also a gay bar, but we barely see what goes on there, or what the interior even looks like. And the ultimate missing information: Is Noel gay, bi, confused, pretending, or maybe just another straight guy who happens to love a gay guy? It’s up to the viewer to decide; Your Mom might have a different opinion than you. Cruz’s family-friendly persona is spared of the damage. Not to give away spoilers, but he does end up quite a chaste man by film’s end. All’s well in the happy sin-free world, where only one of two things can happen to a gay man: He either dies violently or just stops being gay. Of course, John Lloyd Cruz as Noel is the archetypal leading man of Star Cinema: a man who loves unconditionally, who suffers for his love, who also happens to be devoted to his parents. He’s predictably given moments to bare his heart out. But Manzano as Mark is the more interesting creation. He’d rather go to the gym than spend time with his Mom, and he makes that strange proposal to her (I won’t give away the surprise), tapping into a son who’s both practical and caring, tough and sweet. Plus, with all that missing sex in the movie, Manzano manages to hint at someone who’s comfortable with it, next to Cruz’s somewhat frozen take on man-to-man touching.
But what little gay moments that are permitted to slip through are strong. In one scene, Shirley (Santos) complains that her son never even “came out” to her. In defense, Mark points out the double standard: If his straight siblings were never obligated to declare their straightness, why should he announce his gayness? Lamasan’s co-writers, Raymond Lee and Senedy Que, are minds behind two of the most progressive queer films of our time. (Lee produced Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros; Que wrote and directed Dose.) Like those films, In My Life belies a fierce intelligence, wisdom that comes from a place of experience, at least whenever it’s allowed. The film’s most special move is that it roots Mark’s anxiety — He’s never good enough for Mom — to that moment in adolescence when he felt his homosexuality was a disappointment. But the makers don’t know when to ease up on the melodramatic conventions, which stall the movie here and there. Shirley’s journey is marked with obvious, rigid plotpoints. She spends the first part whining about America with a capital A, then finds mini-success as a career woman, complete with feel-good montage. There’s an old-fashioned, weary mannerism to Lamasan’s approach, not helped by her visual team. New York is a flat, gray city in the eyes of cinematographer Charlie Peralta, and lifeless and generic according to production designer Elfren Vibar. Somewhere in this movie is a shining work of art, but it’s shrouded in mediocrity. GRADE: B – The Bakla Review (READ MORE)
It is easy to blame it on distance. They say distance kills families. Distance breeds rebellious children who account their parentless childhood for lack of love towards them. It breeds children who don’t finish school and do drugs instead. It breeds children who would rather party all night than call their parents and ask them how they’re doing. It breeds children who complain they can’t find time to call their parents because it’s so late, why don’t they just call me instead? And when the parents call, Oh, shit, tell them I’m busy. Studying. These children who have always thought that the lack of attention given to them, like Claudine Barretto’s character in Anak, is more important than the attention given to them. They don’t need material things, they don’t need tuition for school, they don’t need extra allowance, they don’t need a secure home and steady future: what they need is the only thing not given to them. Their parents rearing them, being with them, seeing them everyday. Like that scene, the best moments in the film are those which meld specific personal experience to the anyone-can-relate universal — which is really the aim of the genre of melodrama. Santos may be a mother to a gay son, but she’s really just any parent who wants to say sorry for her mistakes. Dimples Romana, in a great supporting performance, is any daughter (or son) who felt like a failure. That response to parental distance is not exactly wrong, but the movies made out of it make it appear that distance is the only reason why families break up, and why children lose their lines of communication with their parents. No one wants to go away, no one wants to work abroad and leave their children behind, no one wants to see them brought up by somebody else. But a family has to eat, kids have to go to school, young ladies need nice clothes for the prom, boys need boy things, the house must be repaired, your cousin Boyet has cancer, your Lolo Tasyo died and we have to pay for the coffin and the funeral parlor, and so on and so forth. Necessities pile up, so parents try their luck abroad and stay there for years. Children are left to stay with their lolos and lolas, or titos and titas. Parents send money once or twice a month, send boxes of imported goods, chocolates, clothes, love letters. Years go by. They go back. They see the worth of their sacrifice. Their children have all grown up. They don’t even recognize them, even if they send pictures once a year on their birthdays. But some things are lost, some things are left unsaid between them, or rather, some things are preferred not to be said. The distance mattered. From geographical to emotional, the distance continues to separate them.
But as I said, it is easy to hold the distance responsible. The homebreaker. The murderer of good relationships. We are so acquainted with these overseas worker stories that we tend to limit our understanding and segregate them into labeled “lucky” and “unlucky” boxes. In My Life closes the deal for me upon setting this matter straight. In this case, the son works abroad and the mother follows him, initially for a vacation. After mulling things over, or as it seems, she plans to stay for good. She thinks she has nowhere to go. Her daughter is migrating to Australia. Her former husband and her children prod her to agree to sell the house more than its worth. Staying in New York wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially that she is an American citizen by birth. The baggage of family problems she carries dents the narrative. Apparently, working in another country is an issue here. But it is not what keeps her family apart. For one, her daughter and her family want to stay in Australia holding on the promise of better life. Her son works in New York after an opportunity given to him by his employer. Or—he chooses to stay because he wants the hell out of his boring life in the Philippines. Or—sounding more judgmental, maybe he just wants to have fun, collect strangers, knit love stories out of them and make himself happy. Or—we just don’t know how many reasons we can come up with. But I wish to raise my tone here. Distance is not the problem. It is the mother’s failure to bring up her children well. As you see, the same producers who gave us Milan, Dubai, and Caregiver also made For The First Time and Love Me Again. Once love and work are set in another place, they become special. And In My Life is special in the virtue of the mother’s character as a failed one. She spent time with her children trying to raise them like any good mother does. She hardly listened to what they wanted because she thought she knew what’s best for them. She was there, as they all grew up. Along the way, her children made choices, and she was unaware that she was neglecting things that were important to them. Her son’s sexuality, her daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor, her husband’s unknown reason for splitting up. In defense of her character, she did her best. But she failed, and it took its toll on her. Gravely.
She had to realize it—so there goes the fish-out-of-the-water setup in New York. She meets her son’s partner who willingly guides her in the city. The partner is heavily used as a device to reveal her nature. Personally, it is the mother’s relationship with him—as opposed to the mother-son or mother-daughter or mother-herself relationship—that is integral to the film’s premise. The most beautiful part of the film is not when her son confesses to her about his childhood, but when she and her son’s partner exchange snide remarks after the wake, and they argue and throw rocks of guilt at each other. From then on the doubt we raised on her character becomes truth. She has no one to blame for her suffering but herself. The woman who plays the mother tries hard to be young, which might be the pattern of her recent films. It is not a bad path after all, for one has to graduate from doing the same things for a long time. She has comedic timing, and she has dramatic prowess. When she complains, “Ginagawa niya akong turista! Ikaw ang pinunta ko rito, hindi ‘yung tour!” we laugh because she is witty. When she throws a tantrum after getting lost in the subway, we hate her. Apart from knowing that it was her fault, we can’t stand the charming partner being blamed despite his niceness by an ingrate. It crossed my mind to call her character one of the weakest roles ever written for her, but that’s just because Shirley Templo isn’t too likable. She is repulsive most of the time. Reflecting, the actor has portrayed “unlikable” characters before, even taboo roles for that matter, yet we still like her. But in In My Life, her role tends to go beyond understanding; you just need to be her to understand her. Yet the actor delivers; she deceives us. But the blood of the film flows from the actor who plays the son’s partner.
Amid the histrionics and uneven noise of the film in general, he shows his restraint without fuss. Apparently the writers intend to make his character subdued. He exists in the periphery without losing his grip. When he cries at his partner’s back as he hugs him on the bridge, he is the equivalent of sacrifice. Never show the pain, never show the loneliness. That’s us, on the screen. The brief exposure of his family’s life is enough for us to connect with him. Contrary to the emphasis given to the mother’s family, we would like to know him more, know if the lump in his mother’s breast is just a false alarm, know if he’s just fine after crying overnight. We learn about his troubles in staying in the States, how he juggles work and hobby, how he struggles to earn for his marriage. God forbid, we don’t want him to fall into the arms of Pamela. His issues are more interesting, yet what makes him special is that like most people around us, we only get to know him up to a certain extent. He comes and goes. We miss him. We want to see if he’s fine. His distance unsettles us, in a good way. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that these locations that the producers choose are just a way to make more money. They could show it abroad and Filipinos there would flock to the theaters, filled with expectations of connecting with the film one way or another, see their lives projected on screen, see themselves in the characters. It’s some sort of self-discovery. They want to be intimate with themselves, see how it works, see their situations from afar, observe how other people react. Their identification with the characters is what they paid the tickets for. If they don’t shed a tear, that’s disappointment. But more often they just find ways to connect. They look at the nuances with affection, checking if the characters reacted the same way they did in similar situations. Audiences seek connection, and if they don’t find it, they create it. Even if the film is more of an examination of their faults as parents and children than the circumstances that brought them where they are. – Richard Bolisay, Asian Films, Noypi, QueerREAD MORE
"...Vilma Santos seldom appears in movies anymore, so when she does it is an event. In My Life is a good choice because she is allowed to act her age. Her character Shirley Templo (great name) is cute but frequently unsympathetic and even irritating, the way fussy old people who are set in their ways, who are resistant to anything new and never admit their own mistakes, are irritating. A human being! Wow. But she is still Ate Vi so there will be dancing. The bagel guy, though: too ancient. The extras: Please..." - Jessica Zafra (READ MORE)
"...Her last film project In My Life told of a mother (Vilma Santos) coming to terms with her son’s (Luis Manzano) gay lifestyle, understanding the emotions of his lover (John Lloyd Cruz) and accepting her own defects as a person and mother. One reviewer stated that the story of In My Life was just too much to digest with a lot of unnecessary subplots. Another said that the acting was fine but it didn’t need to be shot in New York. Still another complained that it was the mother’s story with the gay relationship glossed over. It was obvious they weren’t ready for the film..." - Bibsy M. Carballo, The Philippine Star, August 31, 2012 (READ MORE)
"...Vilma Santos chose this as her comeback film in lieu of Raya Martin's Independencia. The latter film is among the best films released so far this year, while In My Life will soon be forgotten after the media hype whimpers down. The blurbs boldly scream... Passionate scene of John Lloyd Cruz and Luis Manzano! Acting showdown between Cruz and Vilma!! 16th Anniversary Presentation of Star Cinema! The prolific production company should have selected a better story for the triumvirate of Vilma, Cruz, and Manzano...The much-hyped passionate scene is a dud. If you blink, then you will probably miss it. The beautiful shot before the kissing scene is the one that should have been talked about. We see Noel hugging Mark while a tear drop rolls down his cheek. Now, that is a passionate person who is very much in love! There are directing and script flaws that bother me. The travelogue scenes diminish the impact of the fish-out-of-the-water concept. The initial scenes give the impression that Shirley is very much adapted to the city. Also, Shirley is not a bumbling moron. She is an educated person and a librarian at that. The wacky scenes are completely out of line. The film seems to be about how a mother comes to grips with her homophobia. Well, it turns out, that she is not only distant to her son but also to her two daughters. She is not homophobic. She is plainly a bad mother. How she ended up being a bad mother was not tackled at all. The film was so caught up with other topics such as marriage for convenience, and gay couples that it forgot the major topic..." - Film Angel (READ MORE)
kabahan ka - "...Veteran actresses Anita Linda and Rustica Carpio, who play two elderly women at opposing ends of a murder case in the Brillante Mendoza drama “Lola,” shared the Best Actress award at the 33rd Urian Awards given by the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino on Thursday night. “Lola” tells the story of grandmothers who find themselves at opposite ends of a murder case involving their grandsons. “Some people told me, ‘You’re nominated for Best Actress pero kalaban mo si (but you’re running against) Vilma (Santos for ‘In My Life’) kaya dapat kabahan ka na (so you should be nervous). Everybody knows how good an actress she is.’ To be nominated alongside Vilma and the other ladies, panalo na agad ako (already makes me a winner),” Linda told the Inquirer shortly after the awards show held at the UP Cine Adarna at University of the Philippines compound in Diliman, Quezon City..." - Marinel Cruz, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 05/01/2010 (READ MORE)
challenged - "...Vilma said she chose In My Life as her comeback movie 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..." - Mark Angelo Ching, 02 Sep 2009 (READ MORE)
"...This begs the question: should we expect this kind of progressive view on homosexuality from the mainstream in general and In My Life in particular? Perhaps not. In an industry dominated by conservative values—rooted in the ideal economic feasibility of a G-rated film—In My Life’s gay publicity is simply a ruse, the film’s bid to package itself as daring and sensitive, as is fitting for the Star of All Seasons. Vilma Santos’s comeback cannot be centered on anything but her. The film must project Vilma as a daring actress (and liberal-minded politician) willing to tackle controversial roles, while maintaining her palatable sensitivity as the ordinary matriarch of Anak and Dekada ’70 fame. In My Life, then, is ultimately a film about mothers. Though packaged as a queer film, it is actually a family movie, the much-publicized homosexual angle between Cruz and Manzano just one of the many issues mothers like Shirley have to deal with in these times..." - Edgar Allan Paule, Viewer Discretion, 14 Oct 2009 (READ MORE)
"...Perhaps one of the most rare and unforgettable showcases of a librarian in the history of Philippine movies was Vilma Santos, known as Philippine’s Star for All Seasons. Vilma had a stint in the movie In My Life released in 2009. The film was about the struggles of a mother, Shierly Templo, feeling alone and left out of her brood, with her daughter expressing the desire to migrate to Australia and her gay son already working in New York...The movie was really not that descriptive of the librarian role as the main character only showed up in library and school scenes in just few frames. No scene firmly suggests her activities inside the library except her acts of hissing students. She can be identified as a stereotypical librarian complete with her glasses and her choice of classic cardigans and coats; a staple to stereotypical librarian fashion. She was also punningly recognizable in the way the character shushes her workmates in the restaurant where she worked later in New York..." - InterLibnet, 08 May 2015 (READ MORE)