What does one do with a movie like Instant Mommy? It took all my will power not to walk out of the cinema, and I can sit through the worst of our local comedies and not care about the time I’m wasting. This film made me think of all the things I could be doing instead of watching it. And no, Eugene Domingo in the lead does not save it.
It’s mainly because there was nothing to save here. The story was flimsy to begin with, where a pretend pregnancy for a woman who is desperate to keep love, is imagined to be fodder for comedy. Which it could have been, were it not riddled with issues that were more complex, that to have treated it superficially or as secondary to the comedy just felt wrong. Say, the difficulty of a long distance relationship between Betchay and her Japanese boyfriend. Say, the suffering that is in a miscarriage, which Betchay goes through alone and with nary support from anyone.
The latter the film deals with via a dream. One that we are unclear is even happening, and within which finally we see what they meant about Betchay being an instant mother, using a fake belly, finding a fake ultrasound, doing a fake birth video. When it unravels, she wakes up, and we find that she is mostly just angry with her boyfriend for not calling her in the aftermath of the miscarriage. She also finds that the boyfriend’s in Manila, and is still with his wife. Betchay runs to her ex-boyfriend, the one who’s constant presence throughout the film, someone she doesn’t like anymore, but who helps her with another pretend-pregnant-belly if only to shame the Japanese man in front of his wife.
If only to make the simplest of stories convoluted and indigestible. This film might have known of its superficiality, so it layered the narrative with the world of advertising (within which Betchay worked), and the crisis of infidelity (because the long distance relationship and miscarriage were not enough), never mind that these would not be fleshed out as crucial to the story at all. It had random moments that spoke nothing of Betchay and her crises, including but not limited to the taxi she was riding getting a flat tire, having her speak to an aged ex-production house worker; selling an antique cabinet that her father loved. We do not know why these things happened and it doesn’t seem to matter.
In the end though the saddest thing about this film is its inclusion in this year’s Cinemalaya, a festival that promises movies that tell new stories, if not old stories in new interesting ways, a festival that promises movies with vision. Including “Instant Mommy” in this roster is insulting because it doesn’t even have the capacity to pretend that it has vision. In the end it falls back on bad 90’s soap opera drama. You realize that’s really all it was imagined to be.
Instant Mommy was written and directed by Leo Abaya, and produced by Josabeth Alonso, Kris Aquino, Chris Martinez, John Victor Tence, and Leo Abaya.