Miguelito Batang Rebelde (D'Wonder Films, Inc.) is primarily a vehicle for Aga Muhlach, but Lino Brocka is shrewd enough to transcend this limitation. The previous year, Muhlach took teeny boppers by storm as the embodiment of the bagets personality. He was initially merchandised as such and appeared in a string of movies that hardly differed from one another. Instead of making just an Aga movie, Brocka succeeded in delivering a fairly touching drama about injustice. Miguelito (Aga Muhlach) is a typical teenager, easygoing and carefree. His father Venancio Hererra (Eddie Garcia) is the town mayor who intends to bequeath the post to his only son. Miguelito's secure world is shattered by the arrival of a strange woman in town, Auring (Nida Blanca), his real mother. For fifteen years, she suffered in prison after being framed by Venancio and is now determined to see her son and get things straight. Ningning (Liza Lorena), a former colleague is the only person willing to assist Auring in her fight for justice. She was paid by Venancio to testify against her. Remorseful, Ningning helps Auring in filing a new court case. Miguelito discovers the truth and confronts his father about the matter. Janet (Beth Bautista), Venancio's mistress whose dream is to leave town and go to the city unwittingly gets involved in the conflict between Miguelito's parents. In the film's climax, they will give Venancio the comeuppance he deserves. Miguelito Batang Rebelde is fine enough as a transition movie for Aga Muhlach. With Brocka, he gets to prove that at least, he has a partially mobile face and minimal emotional power. He manages to strike a spark or two as in his confrontation scene with his father and in the car where Susan (Gretchen Barretto), his girlfriend, tries to console him.
It is Nida Blanca, cast against type who is well served by her director. She gives the best dramatic performance since 1983's Saan Darating Ang Umaga? and clearly demonstrates that she has an inner reserve of dramatic talent most moviegoers would not have suspected in her or believed she would know how to utilize. The scene where she is finally introduced to her long lost son is so touching. All mawkish directors of caterwauling telenovelas should be taken to that heartbreaking reunion and held fast by the neck until they have seen it ten times. Pedestrian directors would have milked the scene dry with oozing sentimentality but Brocka knew how to play his cards well. The rest of the performances are generally fine. Brocka pushes the characters against each other as often as possible and pushes the camera up against them. The technique allows the actors a lot of opportunity for emoting. Eddie Garcia is remarkable as the father who becomes a fallen idol in the eyes of his son. Both Liza Lorena and Beth Bautista are very competent in their respective roles. The biggest hitch in the film is that Venancio's accomplices in his crime against Auring did not get their own share of punishment. I was was expecting a big climactic scene where they would all be exposed to the public and get humiliated by robbing Auring of fifteen precious yeas of her life. That's probably why I felt the ending was sort of unsatisfying. Jose Dalisay has written a fairly absorbing screenplay but some details are very disconcerting. For instance, Cristina (Gloria Romero) reveals that Venancio got Miguelito from the orphanage when he was five years old, only when they were dead sure that she is incapable of bearing her own child. In that case, the whole town must have known that Miguelito was not really her own son. How come this surfaced only upon Auring's arrival? The story is reminiscent of Friedrich Durrenmatt's 1956 tragicomedy The Visit but there are those who would surely interpret the town as a symbol of contemporary Philippine society, what with the allusions to cronies who are Venancio's partners in crime. The movie does have some technical weaknesses, most especially the cinematography. Pedro Manding, Jr. is not yet that accustomed to Brocka that one hankers for dramatic pictorial composition the director achieves best with Conrado Baltazar. Joey Luna's production design is a lot better. What with the attention to detail like the pencil drawing of Venancio's family prominently displayed in their living room. Miguelito Batang Rebelde may not be as great as Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974) and Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag (1975). But in a year of lean harvest, this film achieves a better significance.
Directed By: Lino Brocka
Screenplay: Jose Y. Dalisay
Photographed In AGFA Color By: Pedro Manding. Jr.
Musical Director: Homer Flores
Film Editor: Armando Jarlego
Production Design: Joey Luna
Produced By: D' Wonder Films, Inc.
Release Date: June 14, 1985
Release Date: June 14, 1985