With the conclusion of one of the most controversial elections that our country has faced in recent years, filmmakers have decided to follow suit to deliver creative productions of stories in our history. Just this past week alone, we have gotten two films that aim to tell two very different versions of a time in our history that until now has had ripple effects on our nation, economy, and even our own individual perceptions. These two movies specifically are Katips (which we will discuss further in a separate article) and Maid in Malacañang — the focus of this particular review.

Maid in Malacañang Review: An Overview

Maid in Malacañang is directed by Darryl Yap, who has faced numerous backlash and controversy as of late as a director but is also one who has had recognizable success in filmmaking in the past with #Jowable released in 2019. The film stars Cesar Montano as Ferdinand Marcos Sr., Diego Loyzaga as Bongbong Marcos, Christine Reyes as Imee Marcos, Ruffa Guiterrez as Imelda Marcos and Ella Cruz as Irene Marcos. 

Marion Aunor - Traydor na Pag-ibig (from "Maid in Malacañang")

The film revolves around the Marcos family during their last days in Malacañang as an ongoing rebellion engulfs the entire country. The family is faced with the difficult decision of fleeing the palace as they fear for their lives and those closest to them. The story for the most part focuses primarily on the family as well as their household helpers and bodyguards specifically three maids — Biday (Beverly Salviejo), Santa (Karla Estrada), and Lucy (Elizabeth Oropesa). These three play a crucial role as they serve as the focal points for the story that unfolds as they experience it all firsthand. 

Maid In Malacañang Review: Disclaimer

We acknowledge that this particular movie has a two-fold purpose: 1) to deliver a politically heavy and propagandistic message, and 2) to still provide entertainment in the chosen creative medium of film. This review will focus primarily on the latter — The Maid in Malacañang analyzed through the lens of its creative purpose through film elements such as cinematography, direction, acting, music, etc. We however cannot neglect the fact that Maid in Malacañang is still a very politically centered movie due to the historical narration of the content itself and the timing of its release. We acknowledge this and the fact that the film has subliminal and underlying tones that it aims to achieve. 

Marcos family - Wikipedia

Maid In Malacañang, as many put it, is an attempt to rewrite history while others say it’s a means for certain groups of people to tell their side of the story. We at This Is Hype Ph have our certain views on the matter, our own personal political stands even. We however aim to look at this film from an objective and creative standpoint — nothing more, nothing less. We aren’t here to discuss the historical fallacies and distortions. Doing so may require a different article, vantage point, or even a Philippine historian which we admittedly are not. We, therefore, review this film fully aware of its political standing and the deep-seated messages that it conveys. These messages are rooted deep within a group of people hungry to communicate them.

Maid in Malacañang Review: Spoiler Warnings

We will keep this review of Maid in Malacañang, free from spoilers as we focus on the cinematic choices and direction that Yap took on; the performances of the cast; and the overall premise and flow of the story. 

Creativity at its Finest

IN PICTURES: More photos from the movie 'Maid In Malacanang' – Manila Bulletin

Right off the bat, just a few seconds into the film, we understand that there is a different lens and perspective used to tell this story. Maid in Malacañang’s cinematography uses an 8mm film overlay that is meant to bring an old-school vibe to the movie. This technique isn’t meant just to add flair or creativity but it pretty much sets the tone for the setting by also showcasing further the “historical” quality of the movie. Watching the film in the theaters elicits a different element to the film altogether as the movie takes up just a fraction of the wide screen which enables viewers to draw their attention further into the limited space used. The technique in itself is a symbolic gesture of urging viewers to set their sights on the middle of all the drama and action as if suggesting that what is being shown — each and every moment of it — is of dire importance.

IN PICTURES: More photos from the movie 'Maid In Malacanang' – Manila Bulletin

Maid in Malacañang also utilizes a variety of cinematic techniques and editing that allow the story to stand tall with a firm backbone. The color grading for example is consistent as it uses sepia-like tones and darker shades that enable the heavier themes and quality of the story to take center stage. Even during the moments where the lighting is at its full amount, the brightness isn’t too overwhelming but in contrast, is just enough to keep the consistency in the film’s cinematography. Furthermore, the film also utilizes a great understanding of editing techniques by adding actual historical footage and clips to keep the movie not only engaging but to have some resemblance to historical accuracy. There were some aspects in the cinematography and editing, however, especially during the latter parts of the film, that weren’t executed that well primarily through the use of sloppy special effects. These however were honestly minute and could be overlooked.

Maid in Malacañang - movie: watch stream online

The creative juices and punches keep on coming as the cinematography and editing aren’t the only areas that The Maid in Malacañang succeeds. The sound mixing department together with the chosen soundtracks are pretty spot-on as they were able to elevate the dramatic mood of the film when needed. From the first few minutes alone the mood of the entire film is set with an upbeat yet stripped-down version of Nosi Balasi that serves almost as a time machine in itself as it has a very disc and ‘80s vibe to it. Not only were these song choices great from a melodic standpoint but they also aid in relaying the messages and themes of the film through the lyrics of the songs. These musical choices are further heard and showcased consistently as the film progresses with each chosen song or score appropriate to the mood set — whether it be a comedic or dramatic one. 

Acting Showcase

It is undeniable that most if not all of the stars of Maid in Malacañang have had success in the past thus making this a star-studded film. This is seen visibly throughout the entire movie as the choices for each character actually made a lot of sense. Say what you wish about the director and maybe even some of the questionable stands and remarks from some of the cast members, but they actually did some amazing work in this film. Yap first and foremost allowed each of his cast members to have their own shining moment. There were just enough of these moments to ensure that not a single actor outshined the others but these moments and avenues that Yap provided were only further elevated by the acting skills themselves of each actor and actress.

IN PICTURES: More photos from the movie 'Maid In Malacanang' – Manila Bulletin

The main highlight or focus in terms of acting and the overall story of the film seems to be Imee Marcos and this actually didn’t come as a surprise given the Senator’s position as creative head and executive producer. Christine Reyes crushed the role of Imee from her hairstyle, and costume down to the little intricate details in the delivery of her line and bodily gestures. There is an-all out emotional uproar that she brings to the table with her scenes that literally have her screaming at the top of her lungs down to her having intimate moments. She has the most air time and was able to give justice to the gravity of the role. In a way, the film did tend to become Imee-centric as the majority of the film portrayed her as this savior for the family who has just returned from a trip to Singapore.

IN PICTURES: More photos from the movie 'Maid In Malacanang' – Manila Bulletin

That however doesn’t mean that the rest of the cast simply faded into the background. On the contrary, as mentioned, each had its own moments. Cesar Montano, for example, rose to the challenge of creating a very believable performance of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. His role was actually one of the most complex ones out of all the other actors as his characterization would often change depending on who he was speaking to – there was intense anger when faced with Bongbong, immense truthfulness and candor with Imee, fatherly care with Irene and love and affection with Imelda. These individual moments that the actors had with Ferdinand were worth the price of admission especially Loyzaga’s confrontation with Montano in the palace study and Cruz’s outstanding performance as she set down on the floor like a child begging her father to agree to leave the palace.

The Marcoses' last three days in Malacañang

I cannot move on any further without acknowledging the three maids in this film — Estrada, Salviejo, and Oropesa. These three ladies truly stole the show in my most humble opinion by delivering the much-needed humor that broke the drama and heaviness of the film. The maids were phenomenal in both having dramatic and emotional moments as well as mood-breaking humorous ones. All three of them were equally lovable and endearing to witness but Biday (Salviejo) needs the extra special mention. The quirkiness and absolute rawness in her delivery were so fun to witness and in turn, became one of my personal highlights from the film that kept it all engaging to witness.

Family Is What It’s All About

Darryl Yap unveils official film poster of 'Maid in Malacañang' – Manila Bulletin

Beyond being a political film as Maid in Malacañang sets itself to be, the film actually centers on the themes of family. It’s a movie that deals with protecting, loving, and fighting for one’s family no matter what. As mentioned we cannot remove the politically heavy direction of the film which to be honest is probably one of the most unsettling parts. The movie does have a lot of imagery, lines, and symbolism that are meant to depict a bigger politically driven motive. The flashing of IRM 2022 for example alongside the lines “makakabalik tayo!” from Loyzaga’s BBM is just one blatant form of this mind conditioning from the film. There are several back-and-forths as well with conveying discriminating and condemning messages regarding other political figures like the Aquinos as seen in the conversations on the EDSA rally as well as the very controversial mahjong scene, in the end, just to name a few.

Nuns Cry Foul Over 'Maid In Malacañang' Movie Scene | OneNews.PH

When we put these aside and look at it from a creative and mere art form perspective The Maid in Malacañang follows the various conversations and treatment of the former president Marcos Sr. with his children and staff. It’s actually a profound depiction of a man who has a variety of sides to him which the film isn’t at all trying to sugarcoat or hide. We see anger and how he treats Bongbong which in response shows the need from the son to prove himself and make his dad proud. We see the great amount of trust that he had in his eldest daughter which poetically also explains the title of the film that actually refers to Imee whom Ferdinand sees as his biggest and best unpaid helper. Irene is the baby of the family, well that’s how the majority of the members of the family see it. The scene with Irene however is extremely powerful given the fact that Yap’s choice of letting Irene sit down on the floor is a symbolic way of portraying youth but at the same time maturity. Irene isn’t just begging her father as a normal person but one with authority as a daughter and in turn is able to speak the truth when Ferdinand asks her a deep and personal question.

MAID IN MALACAÑANG NI DARRYL YAP, PANONOORIN MO BA? - YouTube

Imelda who probably has the least amount of lines in this film serves as the powerful matriarch who doesn’t need to really say much for her presence to be felt. The dance scene alone in the middle of the chaos and rubble between the first lady and the president was all that was needed to elicit so much power and awe. We can’t forget the maids as well as their role in this film is contrary to how most people view the job description. Usually, they are often viewed as people in the background and are meant to keep silent. In contrast to this, the film depicts powerful women with loud voices who were caught up in a situation where they wanted to speak up but in reality couldn’t not out of oppression but of the love and care for the Marcos family. 

Maid in Malacañang Review: Final Verdict

If, and I will emphasize the word if, we look at Maid in Malacañang merely from a creative and technical standpoint as a film, we would actually go as far as saying that it’s a pretty good offering. As seen in our review Maid in Malacañang has the makings of being technically brilliant and at the same time having a pretty decent story (if we disregard the political messages and alternate motives that it provides). We must now see it as a whole, however, and the implied and explicit messages, timing, and ulterior motives of the film drag it down as it’s just too much to swallow at times. There are moments when it becomes insensitive and offensive to some people. Again, it’s well made as a film in terms of the direction, acting, and cinematography but there are some portions to the story that is hard to swallow.

Hype Meter: 6/10

This is admittedly a divisive film. It’s plain and obvious to see this fact. The goal I believe was to bring unity and the other side of the story that people have claimed not to be released until today. I actually urge all our readers to take the time to watch it. Give it a chance and analyze and talk about it after. Hopefully, when these conversations occur it’s with an open mind. This is what films do give us to be quite honest. As an art form, it’s meant to elicit open conversations and provoke us to venture into an exercise of thinking. We can reassess all our opinions and thoughts after but in the end, the option as to what we get out solely rests on our shoulders alone. 

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