Tessie Tomas is on a thespic roll
Tessie Tomas is on a roll. After her QCinema-winning portrayal of an Asperger syndrome-stricken young man’s doting mom in Lem Lorca’s “Water Lemon,” the seasoned actress delivers an even more stunning acting triumph in Cia Hermosa-Jorge’s heart-warming drama, “Old Skool,” about 69-year-old widow, Feliza Ronquillo (Tomas), who summons up the courage to go back to school—as a sixth grader!—to fulfill the dream that marriage and motherhood had left in the lurch.
The role is potentially risky, because it requires Tomas to bring out Lola Fely’s never-say-die spirit without the histrionic theatricality that we usually see in a character like this.
Thankfully, the actress refuses to acquiesce to thespic navel-gazing as she judiciously limns the inner core that makes her character tick—and click!
Rusty memory and high blood pressure notwithstanding, Fely handles her class’ writing, reading and ‘rithmetic challenges with aplomb—and soldiers on in feistily geriatric fashion!
What she doesn’t count on are the “extracurricular” impediments and deceptively mundane hurdles that grade school students have to deal with—like cultivating a pechay farm, when she isn’t shuttling between pesky fractions and the difference between “can,” “could,” “will” and “would”—and, worse, handling a computer!
Fely’s scholastic “adventure” even puts her “people skills” to test—because she has to juggle her conflicting issues with her disapproving daughter, Pinky (Angel Aquino, as credible as she is lovely), who doesn’t want to put her health at risk—and the school bully, Buboy (the always reliable Buboy Villar), who taunts and shoves her and fleeces her of her limited baon! Is he really as mean as he pretends to be?
Tessie imbues her character with soul-stirring sensitivity and dramatic insight—a disarming and transfixing portrayal that is leavened by a puckish sense of humor that keeps mushiness at bay.
The movie tugs at viewers’ heartstrings as it dispenses invaluable lessons about family, ambition and second chances—anchored by the actress’ crackerjack performance—one of the year’s finest!
Tomas’ one-two thespic punch in “Water Lemon” and “Old Skool” is instructive, because it brings to mind her unnervingly over-the-top characterization as an abusive matriarch in Craig Woodruff Jr.’s World Premieres fest entry early this year, “Piring”—where she unfortunately succumbs to the production’s excessive dramatic caterwauling.
The actress lives up to the age-old dictum, “You’re only as good—or as bad—as your last performance!” —And, with the consecutive releases of her latest indies, Tessie Tomas happily bounces back!
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