Cast: Anna Marin, Gina Alajar, Lorna Tolentino, Sandy Andolong
Best Screenplay, 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival
2017 restoration by ABS-CBN
The storied career of director Marilou Diaz-Abaya has gifted to Philippine cinema critical sensations like 1983’s Karnal and box office smashes like 1998’s historical epic José Rizal. But it’s the understated MORAL, largely ignored by critics and audiences upon its 1982 premiere, that stands out today as a groundbreaking achievement whose layered, woman-centered storytelling proved way ahead of its time.
Four college friends laugh and smoke like no men are watching, shrugging off the moral strictures that traditionally shape adulthood. Kathy is an aspiring but untalented singer, navigating a career dictated by others. Joey juggles drugs and men, and has her eye out on a young student activist. Maritess, a writer by training, discovers that marriage is a prison. And Sylvia can’t quit her ex-husband, a caring father who would be perfect if he hadn’t left her for a male dancer.
Following the women across several years, MORAL makes remarkable jumps in time that avoid the grand gestures of historical change and instead leapfrog onto the everyday joking and conundrums of twenty-somethings figuring out their sexual and professional desires and how to attain them. While other films of the time delivered the weight of history in finely-tuned, mighty allegory, Diaz-Abaya portrays these crucial, politically-charged years as snapshots between friends, offering a loosely-structured, observational drama where telenovela turmoil is grounded in the uncertainties of social realism. But it’s not the hard-hitting realism of Lino Brocka, but rather a generous, empathetic one that treasures each conversation between mothers and wives, and treats each reunion of the four friends as precious and seemingly impervious to the restless passing of the years. –Brian Hu
Sun Apr 14