Television is reportedly a writer’s medium, and the aforementioned writers did an astonishing job, telling the story of around a dozen characters over a period of several months (not an especially wide scope, but the level of detail involved is intimidating); it helps that O’Hara doesn’t attend the story conferences developing the plot lines but does rewrite the script when it arrives on the set, helping keep the dialogue effective and real (or as real as possible within the confines of melodrama). All that said, the two directors helming the project do an amazing job of keeping the series visually distinct. O’Hara’s classic style (John Ford by way of Gerardo de Leon) makes for an interesting contrast against Red’s young-punk style (Leone by way of Johnny To, I’m guessing, with the occasional homage to Paul Greengrass). Red deals mainly with the younger cast, and his restless, flashy camera reflects their restless, flashy acting style; O’Hara’s stoic understatement, on the other hand, perfectly complements Aunor and De Leon — in their scenes together you sense a serenity and quiet intimacy that comes from years of having known each other, worked with each other, at one point even loved one another.
Best television you’re likely to see this year? I don’t know; I haven’t had a chance to watch much Filipino TV (asking around, people do tell me it is). I can say this much: it’s the best storytelling I’ve seen this year to date, and that includes everything released this year on the big screen — Hollywood, independent, international.
The series continues for one more week in October at TV5; the previous episodes are available for online streaming (there are roughly 10 episodes to catch up with). If you’re at all interested in what Aunor or O’Hara (arguably the two finest Filipino artists alive, in their first major collaboration in over twenty years) are up to, or if you only want some sharp and intelligent storytelling — in this case an imaginatively entertaining retelling of our history of the past three decades — you could do worse than to watch this. Highly recommended.