Let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, I know Aga Muhlach issued statements that echoed DDS sentiments and he is on our boycott list. And yes, it is hypocritical that I watched his movie given the boycott. In my defense, there are decent people in the cast and the director is also a good guy so it kinda balances things out… or so I tell myself. I am leaving it at that before I trip over myself trying to justify this.
There is so much buzz in social media about the Filipino remake and it was hard not to get curious. After all, it is not every year that a film can go head-to-head with a Vice Ganda movie in the box office. I have not seen the Korean original but I am aware of its immense popularity. Watching the remake, it is easy to see why. Miracle in Cell No. 7 is a heart-tugging tale of family, friendship, love, and the kind of injustice that is all too familiar wherever you are in the world (we will get back to this in a bit and warning – it gets political).
The film mainly benefits from the material even when it gets very telenovela and in some parts, a little too cute for my taste. Aga Muhlach delivers an affecting though unsubtle performance as a mentally disabled father who gets wrongfully accused of a capital crime; Xia Vigor plays his daughter. Excellent support is provided by the ensemble of John Arcilla, JC Santos, Mon Confiado, Jojit Lorenzo, Soliman Cruz, Joel Torre, and Bela Padilla.
It is ironic that Muhlach becomes the bearer of this cautionary tale. The man who once spoke in support of an abusive person in power now stars in a film where his character is taken away from the child that he loves because of an abusive person in power.
In a country where people willingly and blindingly support whatever agenda is pushed by the current administration, this film is a timely reminder of the dangers of the death penalty. In a flawed society like ours where the powerful and the corrupt make the rules, the little people always end up fucked whether they are guilty or not. I realize that most people, about 87% of the PH population per the last survey of 2019, have blinders on when it comes to the abuses of the Duterte administration but here’s a little wake-up call for whether you want to hear it or not. The policeman who turned a blind eye and pushed for the innocent Joselito to get jailed just because the powerful Tirso Cruz III wanted “justice,” that’s you. When you wipe your tears and feel sorry for Joselito and his child, think of the thousands of Joselitos who were killed by this administration’s war on drugs. They were never given a chance to prove their innocence. Those lives are on you.