Our Mighty Yaya follows the exploits of Virgie (Ai Ai de las Alas), a fifty-year-old woman from Guimaras who decides to take a job as a yaya in Manila in order to help pay off debts and send her son to college. She ends up in the house of Tonichi Sevilla (Zoren Legaspi), a rich widower who has just gotten remarried. His new wife Monique (Megan Young) is struggling to connect with his children, and this becomes a real point of tension as Virgie grows closer to her young wards. Virgie is caught in the middle when the kids defy their new mother’s rules, the yaya ultimately blamed for letting them get away with things.The movie is pretty light on plot. The movie mainly floats from one mildly comedic vignette after another, most of them involving Virgie suffering some sort of humiliation at the hands of her young wards. She might get goaded into a game of dodgeball, for example, or have to go on a bunch of scary rides with them at an amusement park. When not doing that, the film hammers home the point that Virgie is from a completely different world from her employers. She doesn’t know what cornflakes are, and is afraid to use a washing machine.The film gets so broad in its depiction of Virgie’s lack of familiarity with her surroundings that it ends up feeling patronizing. Through it all, the film does a pretty bad job of what it is that endears Virgie to the kids, outside of her willingness to put up with their bad behavior. To that end, it’s unclear why Virgie is able to put up with them when other yayas gave up. The film just doesn’t tell the story of what makes Virgie different from the other helpers that ended up quitting over the behavior of the kids. It doesn’t tell the story of how a genuine familial bond grows between her and these rich, spoiled brats.What little plot there is mainly centers on Monique, a woman that married an older man with three kids, and doesn’t know how to be their mother. The film seems to have sympathy for her, but rarely treats her as anything other than a villain. There is real merit to the idea behind this conflict, the film handed the opportunity to study some really unique family dynamics. But the film keeps setting Monique up to be an antagonist. The few scenes that seem designed to soften the character mainly involve her spouting exposition to an extraneous best friend character, talking about the children as abstract constructs rather than real people that she has to engage with.The film just doesn’t feel like a complete vision. There is an idea for a story, but the movie keeps getting distracted. Rather than expounding on Monique’s struggles, for example, the film might go on an extended fantasy sequence that has Virgie and the kids acting out Hansel and Gretel. There is obvious skill applied in the mounting of this storybook scene, but it still ends up feeling extraneous. Ai Ai de las Alas is okay in the lead role, but she has been better. Megan Young shares some complicity in the failure of the Monique character. She doesn’t really seem altogether engaged with the story.Our Mighty Yaya is ostensibly designed as a tribute, but it really doesn’t come off that way. The thing is, a lot of its scenes seem to be built around laughing at the main character as she suffers from having to tend to these children. At the very end, she isn’t even really given the agency to better her own situation. The film ends up reaching for sentiment that it doesn’t come close to earning, the character spouting vaguely heartwarming ideas without having done anything that might justify them.
OUR MIGHTY YAYA IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.