What’s good, what’s bad, what’s meh at the MMFF

By Nickky F. P. de Guzman

Movie review
Deadma Walking
Directed by Julius Alfonso

WITH THE huge success of last year’s Die Beautiful, it is easy to dismiss Deadma Walking, an entry for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), as a copycat gay film — but it is definitely not. Both are equally funny and flamboyant, and revolve around the death of a gay man, but the similarities end here.

Deadma Walking wants us to empathize with the gay businessman John Samson (Joross Gamboa) whose days are numbered after he’s diagnosed with stage four cancer. He connives with his theater actor beshie (best friend) Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman) to fake his death so he can attend his own wake and see who among his friends and former lovers will come and what good (or bad) memories they may have to share.

John disguises himself as the transgender Yolly Redgrave to be able to attend his wake every day. Their show almost fails when John’s balikbayan sister (Dimples Romana) tries to open his casket to see him one last time. A bit of quick wit (the stunt caused the whole movie house to burst into laughter) saves the charade.

Deadma Walking is studded with stars in cameos as 20 (or was it more?) celebrities play John’s friends or old flames, including Piolo Pascual, Gerald Anderson, Marco Alcaraz, Vin Abrenica, Iza Calzado, Joel Lamangan, Vandolph Quizon, Sue Ramirez, Angelou de Leon, Nikki Valdez, and more.

Directed by Julius Alfonso and written by Eric Cabahug, Deadma Walking has high doses of comedy and drama, a bit of a love story, and few art movie montages (featuring comedian Eugene Domingo).

The funny movie is a serious contender for major MMFF awards, including Best Actor — a tie between its two usually underrated stars. Gamboa and Guzman’s skill and chemistry on screen balance each other’s characters. They are like yin and yang, complementing and never overshadowing each other.

Mr. Gamboa’s portrayal of a prim and proper gay guy is subtle and sophisticated, and the total opposite of Mr. Guzman’s depiction of a flamboyant, witty, funny gay man. The delicate balance of this juxtaposition proves how smartly the movie is conceptualized.

Deadma Walking started as a screenplay submitted by Eric Cabahug to the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature — it took second place in its category in 2016. There is also a book version, released by Viva, which is among the top 10 best-sellers at a popular book store.

Deadma Walking is from the same producers behind the successful comedy film Patay na si Hesus, which was an entry at the QCinema Festival this year.

While one may think Deadma Walking is simply about John’s attempt to outwit the Grim Reaper (at least when it comes to knowing his legacy), it demands the viewer invest more in its storytelling, punchlines, and not one, but two, major plot twists, or gay lingo would call major, major pasabog.

MTRCB Rating: PG