Aga Muhlach and Xia Vigor as father and daughter Joselito and Yesha in the Viva Films’ 2019 (45th) Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry Miracle in Cell No. 7, with co-stars playing Aga’s co-prisoners (from left) Jojit Lorenzo, Soliman Cruz, JC Santos, Joel Torre and Mon Confiado
Will Miracle create a himala at the tills?
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - December 20, 2019 - 12:00am

Miracle in Cell No. 7, Viva Films’ official entry in the 2019 (45th) Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), is the remade Filipino version of the 2013 Korean movie (of the same title) currently ranked No. 7 in that country’s highest-grossing domestic films of all time.

The big question is: will it equal or surpass the Korean record and create a himala at the tills during the 10-day MMFF?

Lead actor Aga Muhlach plays Joselito, a mentally-ill man wrongly accused of raping and murdering the daughter of a high-ranking official (Tirso Cruz III). Xia Vigor plays Yesha, his daughter (played by Bela Padilla as the grown-up lawyer).

Directed by Nuel Naval (A Secret Affair, This Time), the movie opens nationwide on Dec. 25.

Let’s hear what the co-stars (Jojit Lorenzo, Soliman Cruz, JC Santos, Joel Torre and Mon Confiado as Aga’s co-prisoners, plus Tirso and John Arcilla as the prison chief) have to say:

John Arcilla as the prison chief

What makes your role different from the previous ones?

John: My role as Johnny San Juan is kinda pivotal. It is a role that most actors would love to do because it has a multi-dimensional characteristic in a way…like a real person…a character which is not predictable. You will have a first impression of him as an antagonistic character, a sinister persona. But then, there will be a transformation in the middle of a story and a vindication that anyone can sympathize with towards the final part. It is a major support role that has its own subplot which intertwines with the two protagonists. Very interesting, indeed.

Tirso: It’s my first time to play a character who just wants to blame someone and punish that person for the death of his daughter. 

JC: This is probably the first time na makikita ako ng audience in a comic role. 

Mon: This one is different because most of my roles are villain roles. This one, although I play tough prisoner mayroong twist. Not all gangsters are totally bad as you will see.

Jojit: What makes my role different from the previous ones? This time, I am with these great actors whom I truly admire. It was an honor and quite a pressure to live up to their skills but the whole experience with them was a smooth one and everybody makes everyone comfortable.

Joel: Because it is a dramedy. I do both drama and comedy.

Soliman: The role is all about ensemble, not the actor as an individual. The weaving of the cast could be compared to a tapestry, planned and prepared delicately.

Tirso Cruz III as the high-ranking official whose daughter is raped and murdered

How was your first working experience with Aga?

John: It’s actually my second time with Aga. We were younger then. But this time, it is more enriching. We had vibes moment on and off the camera. This time, we talk about more sensible matters about our work as actors. We were able to talk about our fears and hesitations on how to tackle a scene or a role which will usually happen in workshops. It is in workshops that you can see the person rather than the “actor” or the “star.” We were just behind the scenes in a tent, just conversing informally but we had several spontaneous moments where we were so relaxed talking about our work. And it is amazing because those are the moments when you lose inhibitions with your co-actor, and you can work more at ease with each other. 

Tirso: Acting with Aga is so exciting for he brings a different flavor to the character he played. He is a great actor. 

JC: Napakagaan ni Kuya Aga. I wish to work with him in more projects. Sometimes I didn’t feel that it was work kasi para lang akong pumupunta ng shooting para mag-enjoy. No pressure at acting-wise, nagbibigayan lahat ng actors

Mon: Actually, I worked with Aga in some films — Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal in 1992, Gwapings Dos, Hindi Kita Malilimutan and Nag-iisang Bituin. So I’m a little relaxed to work with him. He’s still the same Aga that I knew. Very humble and very simple, a very intense actor.

Jojit: I love Aga Muhlach — Aga Muhlach is Aga Muhlach because not only is he a great actor but also a generous one. Very supportive, easy to work with and with so much enthusiasm. He does things more from his heart than from his head. A good soul.

Joel: Very pleasant and inspiring to work with. He cares a lot about the story and the movie.

Soliman: He often visited our tent onset and conversed with his co-stars. It helped remove the “celebrity barrier” between Aga and us.

What scenes in the movie made you cry?

John: A lot…too many. There are three most memorable. First, when my character reveals his back story which will make you realize why he is the way he is. Second, when Aga’s character is about to leave Xia’s while the inmates are all silently trying to hide their grief. And third, when the adult Xia (Bela Padilla) is defending her absent father in the court during the last part of her aria.

Tirso: The relationship between Aga and Xia brings back fond memories. 

JC: The scene where we (inmates) celebrate Yesha’s (Xia) birthday inside the cell no 7. It’s also Joselito’s (Aga) last day with the inmates.

Mon: The scene that made me cry is the ending. It happens only in the Philippine adaptation. You have to see it.

Jojit: The last 15 minutes of Aga onscreen — consistent, honest and real.

Joel: Towards the end…the goodbye scene with Joselito and Yesha.

Soliman: I cried over the scene where Yesha is bidding Joselito goodbye because…oops!, sorry no spoiler alert. As a father, the most painful experience is for you to leave your child.

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

AGA MULACH MIRACLE IN CELL NO. 7 TIRSO CRUZ III
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