Movie: Deadma Walking (2017)

[ random movie time ]
Last but definitely not the least! Maybe even the best.

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As the last of the credits roll and as the outtakes fade, I am left wondering why this wonderful movie ranked below All of You. I can even wonder why it was beat by Siargao or Ang Larawan. With the way Deadma Walking (2017) made the audience laugh and cry and wonder at life, it should have garnered more awards and public accolades.

The movie has an interesting premise: successful businessman Mark (Joross Gamboa) finds out he has a terminal illness, and instead of embarking on a last soul trip or something more conventional, he decides to stage his own death to hear the eulogies from his friends and family. He is aided and abetted by his best friend for life John (Edgar Allan Guzman), who works as a part-time stage actor (“Crying Divas”).

Along the way, the duo confronts the ups and downs of their history, Mark’s strained relationship with his older sister Mary (Dimples Romana), and their respective romances, careers and so on.

Since it was marketed as a ‘gay movie’, I was afraid there would be an abundance of cringe-worthy cliche scenes. The film never seemed to box the leads into an infuriating “gay” corner. Yes, there are a lot of shirtless men, and yes, there are BFF trips to the spa and sauna, and jokes about bathhouses and flirting. Yet through it all, the two leads remain complex humans who love and laugh and hate, and who just happened to be really obviously gay.

I was also afraid, hearing the premise, that it would be another Seven Sundays (i.e. he ends up not dying after all). But I need not have feared. The end was bittersweet, but to make a story about death bittersweet is as expected. My heart is still crying.

It is hard to write what makes this movie so enjoyable. I can definitely say I either laughed or cried so hard, my left contact lens fell out of place…

The comedy was great. With two gay characters at the leads, it would have been easy for the film to segue into stereotypes. The movie could have also banked on slapstick or hurt comedy, and rude gags.

Refreshingly, the comedy of this film rested on its ability to imagine and create, the witty and fast dialogue, and the natural chemistry between the two leads. The direction made it easy to laugh; it’s hard to explain without spoiling or detailing everything that happened.

Aside from the comedy, both leads were on point with the delivery of their lines. It was Gamboa’s Mark in the ending scenes that finally brought out the tears. But it was Guzman’s John that took most of the focus, with his boisterous, outgoing yang as a counterpoint to Gamboa’s more subdued (but no less gay) yin. It was his character that made most of the jokes; it was also his character that brought most of the affective soul.

Stripped of the performance of the actors and the superficial comedy, Deadma Walking is a solid story about the ways we confront death, and how we value life as well. The movie is able to portray the creative journey of a lead who tries to give closure to his career, colleagues, family, friends and self.

Outside of the main plot, there are two other narratives that bring depth to the film. First, there are scenes from the musical headlined by John, called “Crying Divas” –a play on the women who are paid to stay and cry at wakes. Kudos, again, to Guzman’s cross-dressing musical performance.

Second, there are scenes from a fictional art noir film watched by Mark. The film features a french-speaking Eugene Domingo as she literally runs away from loneliness and death. She later walks willingly into Death’s embrace. By death, we mean the symbolic white Caucasian man with abs.

Thematically, all of these plotlines serve as a reminder that we are never ready; that in death, it is the ones we leave behind that suffer the most; that it is the living that beenfits from burials and wakes; and that only some people can be so lucky as to know the moment they die.

Based on the Palanca award-winning screenplay by Eric Cabahug, Deadma Walking (2017) is a masterpiece that marries Filipino culture and intimate stories, creative humor and tear-jerker scenes.  I encourage everyone to watch it while it still plays in the cinemas.

P.S. DONE WITH #MMFF!

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