Bata, Bata…Pa'no Ka Ginawa? (Lea's Story): Movie Review

There's no doubt that with Vilma Santos at the helm, "Bata, Bata…Pa'no Ka Ginawa?" also known as "Lea's Story", is one heck of a riveting film. While outstanding acting and a contemporary view on women's rights make sure that the film is still relevant today, we cannot shake the feeling that the big screen adaptation of Lualhati Bautista's novel is a far cry from its source material's true significance.

Lea (Vilma Santos) is a fiercely independent woman and mother who knows what she wants in life. So much so that she opted to separate from her husband (Ariel Rivera) because their career options did not match. Now, she is living in an extra-marital relationship with another man (Albert Martine) while raising her two children (Carlo Aquino and Serena Dalrymple) from different fathers - one from her husband and one from her new lover. When her first husband suddenly returns and reveals his intention to bring his son with him to America, old wounds are opened as Lea struggles to decide on what to do.
The biggest asset of "Bata, Bata…Pa'no Ka Ginawa?" is definitely in the acting category. While it is easy to conclude that the heartfelt performance of Vilma Santos makes this her film, in reality, we get to see outstanding performances from the other cast members notably the younger ones with Serena Dalrymple and Carlo Aquino. Serena brought in her signature humor punchlines to a heavy-toned film while Carlo Aquino was able to provide a nuanced performance that showed the deep and painful emotions his character was enduring. The screenplay was more than interesting and it had us hooked in - no doubt due to its connections to the novel of the same name - but we felt that it had a penchant to be all over the place. While the feministic tone is something we appreciated and one that makes the film extremely relevant even two decades after its release, it had too many subplots that feel under-developed and out-of-place. This is a rarity in terms of our opinion in movies but it should have been a lot longer to further develop these conflicts. Additionally, Lea's character was frustrating at times. On one hand, we loved her for her devotion to her children, independent and blunt opinions but she has huge flaws that completely ruin our view on her. For example, it's a big head scratcher why she needs to seek a "third relationship" with her office mate Johnny. It adds depth to an already interesting character but it is crazy that she would leave her children just because she feels she can get it on with Johhny on an official business trip to Baguio. At the end of the day, "Bata, Bata…Pa'no Ka Ginawa?" may have its flaws but the lessons and messages contained in it are something that our society still needs to learn until today.
Rating: 3 and a half reels

Why you should watch it:
- Award-winning acting from the cast especially Vilma Santos
- The screenplay presents issues that truly empower women and still relevant until today

Why you shouldn't watch it:
- Lea is a flawed character that might frustrate the audience
- It feels that the movie needs to be longer to further delve into its relevant issues

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