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

Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo: Marrying a family

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By Butch Francisco

Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo is clearly the 2006 Metro Manila Film Festival winner in both box-office and creative terms. It has all the elements to make it a First Best Picture of the festival plus the Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Cultural Award as it espouses family values and it is very Filipino in heart and soul. It is well-edited, the music in the soundtrack is contemporary and meaningful, camerawork is unobtrusive.

The story shows the adage that in Filipino society, one does not marry a beloved partner. One marries a family.

A broad range of moviegoers should find it highly entertaining and see themselves and their relatives in the myriad of wedding personalities, thanks to a very good material and realistic dialogues, nothing too dramatic, nothing phony.

What elevates even higher this latest Jose Javier Reyes film are the spectacular performances of the cast: Judy Ann Santos (unbeatable in the festival’s Best Actress competition); Ryan Agoncillo, a natural actor and a welcome new charismatic leading man with great on-screen chemistry with real-life fiancee Santos); Gina Pareño (festival best supporting actress shoo-in); Ariel Ureta; Gloria Diaz; and Tuesday Vargas.

In that worthy company is Soliman Cruz as the father of Judy Ann. His is a short role but he turns it into a real-as-life showcase of an uncouth yet endearing “promdi” (provincial) Pinoy father. His best scene shows him talking to the mother of the groom-to-be in their traditional “pamanhikan,” which is some sort of a courtesy call to the girl’s parents to ask them for her hand in marriage. Over dinner, the resident patriarch, full of confidence and brio, asks the visiting mom the no-no question: How old are you?

The lady is stunned by such complete lack of tact. Playing the visiting lady in-law is Gloria Diaz who reacts to this show of brusqueness with a mix of embarrassment, awkwardness, and grace. It is a riotously hilarious moment. Truly, this former Filipina Miss Universe-turned-Urian-winning actress continues to improve considerably with her natural, instinctive acting ability. In 2001, her sensitive and touching performance in Lav Diaz’s epic Batang West Side won for her the Gawad Urian for best supporting actress. And now, in Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo, she is a seasoned comedienne who doesn’t try hard but is effective in her scenes.

Her only problem is that she has to contend with co-star Gina Pareño, whose role of the fishwife mother, also comedic, is an inherent crowd-pleaser. Gina’s earthiness and flamboyance easily eclipse Gloria’s more refined character.

Juliana Palermo as Ryan Agoncillo’s romantic distraction also does well indeed. In her confrontation scene with the combative Judy Ann, she reacts with finesse and some dignity, knowing that she cannot fight back because 1) she is only an intruder in the couple’s otherwise blissful union and 2) nobody quarrels with a very pregnant woman.

The movie is full of such tiny observations about life and Reyes is arguably the most astute and perceptive of local directors when it comes to young love and family relationships. He builds up his story with plenty of humor and insights and shows without being literal what the title merely suggests: kasal (union between two people, between two families), kasali (participation, camaraderie), and kasalo (sharing of food, of spoils, of life’s sweetness). Very Flipino.