The society of respected film critics that hands out the annual Gawad Urian in cinematic excellence

Ipagpatawad Mo (1991)

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Christopher de Leon and Vilma San¬tos, the box-office love team of more than a dozen dramas, including "Pakawalan Mo Ako," "Paano Ba ang Mangarap," "Relasyon," "Broken Marriage" and "Imortal" are reunited in this Laurice Guillen drama written by Olive M. Lamasan.

They portray a married couple who try to make their marriage work despite the fact that both of them are career-oriented and that there are tensions created by the pres¬ence of their first-born child, Mike Jr., who turns out to he autistic.

At first, their marriage is close to being one made in heaven. Mike Esquivel (Christopher) is a successful lawyer, while Celina (Vilma) is a popular talkshow hostess. Celina gives up her career to devote fall time as mother to Junjun, the autistic child, played well by both Bennett Ignacio (when Junjun is three years old) and Terence Baylon (when the boy is seven years old).

The husband, however, is totally unsympathetic and even considers the child a disgrace.

With the wife spending practically all her waking hours to attend to her "special" child, the marriage expectedly begins to crumble.

They only give themselves a second chance when Celina finds out that she is again pregnant.

The second child - to father Mike's relief - turns out to be a normal, healthy boy. But with Mike still unable to accept the first child, the marriage is on the rocks once more.

The situation worsens when Mike -driven by the abnormal conditions at home and his own self-centeredness - starts an extramarital affair with a balikbayan named Monique (Bing Loyzaga).

Finally, a near tragic incident gives Mike another chance to prove himself a worthy husband to Celina and even worthier father to his kids, especially the autistic one.

The movie is poignant, nevermushy. It isnotthe run-of-the-mill tearjerker that relies on maudlin theatrics and melodramatic devices to touch the hearts of moviegoers. Surprisingly, despite the frustrating problem facing the movie couple, moviegoers did not seem to be depressed by the movie.

Attempts to "commercialize" the film may be seen in the comic relief provided by the protracted spats between the two kids' yayas (Ruby Rodriguez and Jinky Oda). But the heavy subject and the conditions in the local film industry allow us to accept the filmmakers' decision to inject such crowd-pleasing elements.

Though the late Lino Brocka has made a posthumous telemovie on the same subject autism — with a similar dramatic situation in the still-unreleased "Lampang Kerubin," this is the first time in recent memory that a Filipino movie tackles the subject with seriousness and compassion.

Beyond the subject of having an autistic child, the movie also deals with the intri¬cacies of family relationships, as indicated by the ties between Celina and her mother (Charito Solis) and a wayward sister (Vivian Foz), and between these folks and Mike's parents (Delia Razon and Johnny Wilson).

"Ipagpatawad Mo" is a major film event of the year, with quiet and restrained per-formances by the cast that erupts in emo¬tional outbursts only periodically and judiciously. — Butch Francisco, The Philippine Star