Yours Truly, Shirley: Moving on from Grief


photo taken from Cinema One

THE AFTERMATH of a loved one’s death is not an easy time to go through. Once they have gone, the people who loved them may continue to seek their familiar presence in the world; in the possessions their deceased have left behind and maybe even in the new people they meet. Some might even go so far as to think that their beloved has been reincarnated.

Featured in the 2019 Cinema One Originals film festival, Yours Truly, Shirley is a heartwarming film about grief and moving on, presented with the brighter light of witty humor. While it is yet another comedy to add to the pile, it stands out because it tackles deeper issues in a comical fashion while still not taking away the seriousness of the matter.

Every morning, 50-year-old Shirley (Regine Velasquez-Alcasid) makes a cup of tea for her dearly departed husband — Ronaldo (Romnick Sarmenta)  who used to write her heartfelt letters and called her his “baby darling”. She kisses a photo of him and continues with her day.

Shirley doesn’t really have much going on for herself. She lives alone and is retired because her daughter (Elisse Joson), who works as a call center agent all the way in Baguio, does not want her to struggle with work.  For the most part, she spends her days being dragged along by her best friends, Carmi (Via Antonio) and Menggay (Skyzx Labastilla), to Zumba sessions, reunions, and the like. At a reunion of her fellow former thespians, Shirley is reintroduced to former colleague Ronwaldo (Dennis Padilla) and she strikes a bond with his daughter, Trixi (Belle Mariano), who introduces her to Filipino pop singer Jhameson Khervyn. At first, Shirley is uninterested in the craze over some teenage boy until she notices that his catchy song is reminiscent of her dead husband’s love letters. Slowly, she starts to see a growing resemblance.

Yours Truly, Shirley marks the return of Asia’s songbird, Regine Velasquez, to the silver screen. As the film’s titular character, she balances both humor and tragic emotion with great skill. The scenes where there were no dialogue are where her acting is most notable. Her performance is so organic and poignant that viewers could truly empathize with Shirley’s pain. These scenes alone were sincerely touching and are enough reason to see the movie itself.

The rest of the ensemble gave wonderful performances as well; Via Antonio and Skyzx Labstilla played incredibly witty best friends who had the audience laughing whenever they were on screen. Likewise, the young Belle Mariano was a natural as Ronwaldo’s daughter, Trixi, and it was impressive that she was able to keep up with Miss Velasquez.

Unfortunately, Rayt Carreon who portrayed fictional pop singer, Jhameson Khervyn, provided an unremarkable performance. There are moments where his acting felt awkward and unnatural. The character itself was not completely fleshed out and felt very one dimensional which is disappointing.

Moreover, the cinematography was most impressive during Shirley’s dream sequences. The blurry lighting and dreamlike haze distinguished these scenes from the rest of the movie. The ones that were shot like music videos were particularly fun and amusing with their bright neon colors, while the more serious ones were more somber and captivating. Regrettably, however, was a shaky shot where the camera was following Shirley as she walked towards her home. It was a shame that the filmmakers did not bother to reshoot the sequence because it was rather disorienting and even dizzying.

For the film’s soundtrack, a song written by Jhaye Cura and Nigel Santos and performed by Rayt Carreon especially for the film titled BB Darling was used. It is reminiscent of the popular LSS-inducing songs of today and provides a catchy tune that also drives to plot forward. The addition of the song Di Ako Mawawala complemented the themes of the film and provided an impactful ending.

In the end, Shirley herself eventually realizes that “life is too short”. Moving on from grief is a long and difficult process and that is all right. The first step is acceptance. In that spirit, the film portrays the struggle of a widow still unable to move on from her sweetheart’s death. It explores — in comedic and exaggerated ways — how far one is willing to go just to even feel their beloved’s presence, the extremes one would go through because there is hope that the person they love might have returned.

As a whole, Yours Truly, Shirley, under the direction and writing of Nigel Santos, is a film that provides a perfect balance of drama and comedy; tackling deep and meaningful topics while keeping a light-hearted, feel-good vibe. While the ending may have been a little predictable, it did not deprive the film of becoming a commendable entry to this year’s C1 Originals. F

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