Runner's High: Thelma

Our blogger calls this Maja Salvador starrer "a nice surprise."

The film is loosely based on the life of iconic Filipina athlete Elma Muros


Director Paul Soriano's independently produced film Thelma turned out to be a nice surprise.  I'm glad it opened this week at major cinemas (thanks to distribution by Star Cinemas) and not next week when Marilou Diaz Abaya's Ikaw ang Pag Ibig and Jun Lana's My Neighbor's Wife open on the same day.


Watch the trailer


Loosely based on the life of iconic Filipina athlete Elma Muros, the almost-biopic features Maja Salvador as the eponymous Thelma, a young Ilocano girl who runs to help her poor family. In this movie, Maja is totally unglamorous and completely believable as a confused teen age girl growing up poor and disadvantaged but with a loving family and a good public school sports education program. Maja Salvador's Ilocano sounds authentic, she cries like a real girl homesick for her mother, and she runs like the wind. I've always liked Maja Salvador-who looks like a young Vilma Santos, pretty and vulnerable in equal parts-and I've always wondered why she never got the plum roles. Well, this is her star turn. She's not just pretty-she's tough as nails running barefoot and in tsinelas, over the gorgeous landscape of Ilocos, rough country roads, and the high school track.

Maja is also undoubtedly talented. I'm glad she took the opportunity to produce this movie with Paul Soriano, who proves also that he is not just a pretty face. All in all, Thelma is extremely poignant and watchable-a great cast (including John Arcilla and Tetchie Agbayani as Thelma's folks), sweeping vistas of the Ilocano coast, and a compelling story about a poor girl who ran to make her life better. It's a great role and a rare one and I'm so glad Maja snapped it up. Brava.



So it works as a sports drama, certainly, emphasis on the drama. Fortunately, Paul Soriano's hand for melodrama is just right: there's a scene where Thelma and her sister Hannah (Eliza Pineda) are eating crunchy, oily empanadas and sobbing, and I'm quietly crying along with them, although this is mostly because I miss Ilocos empanada so much. Also, good thing he had the sense to hire a cinematographer like Odyssey Flores and shoot in a place like Ilocos. It's nice to see traditionally Filipino scenarios shot in that light and in that style: a frenetic sabong scene where John Arcilla is wonderful ("as is, where is" to quote Eugene Domingo); Sue Prado (playing Thelma's aunt) weaving inabel like a pro; bahay kubo under a starry sky-all gorgeous and yet overlooked sides of the Filipino existence.

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If not for the cloying musical score -I mean, do we really need music in almost every scene? Does it have to be florid and sentimental?  Who cares if it's overly scored? It's the glorious finish that matters in the end. Thelma is an inspirational movie with a positive message.


So inspiring that for a split second I considered running myself. Who am I kidding? I'm just not the marathon type, if you know what I mean. But I do like the idea of the wind in my hair and soaring music in the background, just like the end of this movie.


I like the idea of making a running playlist, starting with this:





Check out movie schedules for Thelma here.


Photo from the Thelma movie Facebook page

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