The Greatest Love
Ironically as a Filipino, I rarely do Philippine movie or series analysis since it is commonly below passable. As an exercise, I want to talk about the TV series, The Greatest Love. What makes this standout is that the protagonist is a mother who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease or a memory loss sickness, which is rare and bold. Before launch, I am both skeptical and supportive for this effort, I truly want to see more from the Philippine media.
The basic goal or story is a single mother of five children must bring them together as a family. Simply stated but harder done, a broken family is hard to unify. I won't assume you seen or will see this series because I don't recommend it. I don't really like criticizing because I don't enjoy it, I prefer analysis that enhances the viewing experience that is positive and constructive. As a challenge, the setup is good enough for me to discuss.
The message of the series is that a mother's love is the greatest love that unifies a broken family. Simple and straightforward. However, this article is about discussing why the sickness undermines the message or theme. I won't be spoiling anything as everything is in the synopsis and trailer.
Based on the trailers, the memory loss gets worse as she tries to unite her children over dinner. Early on, this is the fundamental point I want to question, if the mother starts to lose her memory before she unites the family, does the sickness unite them instead? My skeptical nature predicts that everyone will pity her and simply be a passive agent, my supportive nature predicts that she will unite her family just before she fully loses her memories.
To portray love as strong, the character representing it must be strong herself but not necessarily flawless that the series can use as material. What we get in the trailer is that she is hiding her sickness while her mission is not accomplished. By hiding her sickness, a moment of dramatic revelation will change how she is treated; we can infer that she is treated poorly or that her situation is bad for this revelation to make sense. She then is a weak or passive mother, predicting her portrayal of love as weak and doomed.
To portray the strength of love, does it need an external conflict such as a disease? If the series was just the journey of a mother reuniting her family, that might be a simpler and stronger. Instead, after the crippling revelation, everyone has to cater to her, instead of her catering to them. Her agency becomes more passive and sickly that make her children the active agents. The underlying message becomes love for the mother, not of the mother is what reunites the family. By using this element, it undermines the whole message of the series itself by forcing them to care for her.
In the series, the memory loss makes her reveal her secrets, puts her into dramatic trouble and handicaps her. I have nothing against Alzheimer's as the series promote awareness; however, it seems to serve the writers more by prolonging the story, allowing for forgetful revelations and showing trailers and commercials dramatic conflict. If the show decides to use pity, the mother must rise above her condition; however, if we assume she is a weak character, then we can believe pity is used to bury her dramatically and physically. The series might show the mother rising above it but it might be too late or long to truly redeem herself.
How strong is the message or theme if the mother was beaten and required her children to finish her work? Is she then a valid avatar of the greatest kind of love? I don't believe so.
Social Media and Memory Preservation
To expound on this setup, the usual story uses a diary to retain memories. In this series, the mother (barely) records herself making video logs. I think using social media here can make it more relevant in a family context of preserving memory. She can make posts, photos and videos to preserve her memory on an online database that is not superficial. It would be fascinating to see a mother, not a teenager, learn and accept the use of sharing technologies naturally.
The series has the reason to explore this aspect with great writing opportunities. What does it mean to create a family album? What does it mean to have outings? The nature of the creation and preservation of memory can tie more closely in the story. Perhaps, it can tie into how a memories bond the family.
This is why I find the setup redeemable despite its flaws. It can tackle the philosophical topic of memory that is grounded in the family setting. Not asking for science fiction or artificial intelligence but a simple and relevant idea can flourish from a story asking to remember the family and the mother.
Regardless, the series is bold in portraying a mother as the foundation of a family but is doomed and flawed by the excessive memory loss and weak female lead. Maybe advertising, demographics and marketing affected spoiled this idea? I continue to wait for a well executed Philippine TV series I can be truly proud of.