Kathryn Bernardo and Dolly de Leon discuss ‘A Very Good Girl’ and the rise of Filipino cinema

The black comedy revenge tale directed by Petersen Vargas is currently playing in theaters in the Philippines and the United States

If there’s one thing to glean from the global economic downfall of the last few years, it’s that people are becoming more privy to the unjust system of power and wealth that gatekeeps opportunity for upward mobility.

Over the last few years, art and entertainment media have depicted this system of rapacious greed, providing a colorful landscape of social commentary that transcends language, cultures, and geography — stories that fantasize and explore vengeance with comedy and cynicism.

A recent entry into this theme of twisted revenge comes in the form of “A Very Good Girl,” a black comedy film directed by Petersen Vargas and presented by ABS-CBN and Star Cinema that stars the Queen of Philippine Cinema Kathryn Bernardo and BAFTA-nominated Dolly de Leon.


“A Very Good Girl” — which was released in the United States on Oct. 6 — tells the story of a young working-class woman named Mercy (Bernardo) and the fascinating series of events that begins with her being fired by the swanky retail mogul Mother Molly (de Leon). Mercy then takes on the dark persona of Philo, a fake socialite who’ll do anything to keep up the mirage, in order to get back at her former employer.

The film, which was initially written by Marionne Dominique Mancol, embraces camp and theatrics as it portrays, rather lavishly, the brutal reality of how far a woman will go to attain high standing in modern society. It’s a story that doesn’t seek to villanize women like Mercy or Molly, but instead, it’s an interpretation of a social hierarchy that is designed to uphold an unjust status quo.

Bernardo, whom global audiences recognize from the countless roles in romantic films and otherwise likable sweet-girl roles, conquered this new assignment and effortlessly embraced the darkness needed to vacillate between Mercy and Philo.

At a press junket on Oct. 5, Bernardo told reporters that she sought to broaden her range as an actor and that this role was her first step into layered, morally questionable roles and characters.

“This role is not like the usual roles I’ve portrayed, but as an actor, you always want to do something different and you need to offer something to the fans,” Bernardo told the Asian Journal. “It was for my personal growth as well, so while I had a hard time with this movie, I really like to challenge myself.”

De Leon, who gained global recognition for her stand-out role in the Palme d’Or-winning “Triangle of Sadness,” is a BAFTA-nominated and Golden Globe-nominated actor whose decades worth of experience in TV, film, and theatre is epitomized in her performance of the opulent Mother Molly.

The effortless chemistry between Bernardo and de Leon is as clear on screen as it is off-screen. Both actors expressed appreciation for each other and described an “amazing support system” among all the crew of “A Very Good Girl.”

“We really created a family, and you know how sometimes you’re in a work environment where there’s at least one person you don’t like? In our case, that never happened because we loved each other,” Bernardo beamed.

“A Very Good Girl” also ushers in a new chapter in the career of de Leon, who is 54 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. De Leon said she’s thankful for the current cultural push for greater opportunities for female actors, who historically saw roles become more limited as they aged.

“This generation [of artists] are very open and very intuitive, and they’re interested in telling different stories of different people from different walks of life” De Leon shared with the Asian Journal while acknowledging that the industry has a long way to go for aging actresses.

She continued, “I think we need to tell more stories about women from my demographic, and I’m hopeful we’ll eventually get there. I’m very fortunate enough to be able to get very meaningful roles at my age and I hope that it keeps happening.”


De Leon added that she hopes that the success of films like “A Very Good Girl” will inspire studios and producers to invest in stories that represent middle-aged and older women in more textured ways.

In order to play Mother Molly, de Leon told the Asian Journal that she didn’t look to any real-life figures or fictional characters for her performance. But de Leon’s personality and values could not be any further from that of the haughty Mother Molly, who had no problem firing a determined, working-class employee.

As the American film industry is revolutionizing amid the multiple strikes in Hollywood, de Leon expressed appreciation and solidarity for the broader effort to recognize the work of actors and creatives.

“I find it so inspiring. It’s a very sad time because a lot of people are out of jobs, but I think it happened when it should have happened,” de Leon said of the writers and actors strikes.

In an even further departure from the character she plays in “A Very Good Girl,” de Leon added, “Change can be painful, but we have to go through this change so that we get fair wages and are not exploited by AI. So I think [the strikes] have been a great thing. We have to do whatever it takes to just make things better for us as workers.”


Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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