Those who’ve been following my site know that every festival season I review films in the order I see them. I had to make an exception this time for Miracle at Cell No. 7 – I felt the need to step back and let it sink in lest I give into my emotions and lose any objectivity from what I’ll write. Two days in, its contrivances become more evident, but Miracle retains much of its emotional punch.
Joselito (Aga Muhlach), a mentally challenged man, is wrongfully convicted for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a senator’s child. His imprisonment separates him from his daughter Yesha (Xia Vigor). He eventually earns the favor of his cellmates who find means to reunite the two.
First things first: the whole film projects an idealistic, dreamlike reality and banks on the audience to just go with it. Don’t question how Yesha can go in and out of prison – or in and out of the orphanage. Nor why her presence hasn’t stirred a commotion among other inmates (preferential treatment from the warden?). Not even the animated, theatrical way almost all characters are acting, which is probably influenced by the Korean original. And most importantly, don’t question why almost every male character is either estranged from or have lost a child. These are all part of the ruse you have to accept to appreciate the film. The moment you ponder on these narrative compromises breaks your suspension of disbelief, your full immersion to the experience.
Despite these, the movie still works because of its masterful use of dramatic irony – simply put, we know exactly Joselito’s eventual fate, and the anticipation and anxiety that’s built up until that heart-rending climactic scene when Yesha realizes what’s going to happen is enough for even the toughest among audience members to burst into tears. It’s impossible not to be carried away by the tragedy, frustration, and anger. And to the movie’s credit, it manages to keeps its heart in a hopeful place by magnifying the unrelenting love between father and daughter, the belief in the kindness of people, and the faith for justice to prevail.
Miracle requires significant buy-in from its viewers, but based on the word of mouth and recommendations online, many feel it’s worth it. Regardless of the film’s faults, if it touches the heart, it can get away with many things!
Directed by: Nuel Naval
Starring: Aga Muhlach, Bela Padilla, Xia Vigor