REVIEW | ‘Deadma Walking’ lacks emotional punch

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Joross Gamboa plays the terminally ill gay who stages his own death. (Photo screengrabbed from trailer).

Based on Eric Cabahug’s 2016 Palanca-winning screenplay for literature, “Deadma Walking” is about a terminally ill gay, who, in order to face his imminent demise easier, stages his own death to attend his wake and hear what his friends, loved ones, and colleagues have to say about him.

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The concept is original and interesting. I haven’t read the source material, but I could tell it’s a tragicomedy. Sharp and piercing. And hauntingly melancholic. Character-driven and witty. Because the movie has an air of it…just an air of it. This movie adaptation doesn’t really provide emotional or intellectual satisfaction.

Joross Gamboa plays the dying guy, John Samson, and he plays the character with beautiful subtlety. Meanwhile, his gay best friend, Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman), his accomplice in his major “death production,” is entertaining. A theater actor in the movie, Mark is a joy to watch, especially in the “Crying Divas” scenes, giving us lively musical numbers, with pizzazz and wit.

Meanwhile, the eulogies, which should have been the heart and soul of the film, are either mediocre or corny. There’s nothing really to glean from their words—they are neither moving nor funny. The only time I laughed out loud was when Ate Mary (Dimples Romano) said in one of the wakes, “In behalf of my family—ako na lang pala ang natitira.” She corrected herself with such deadpan expression that it was hilarious.

Although Gamboa and Guzman’s dynamics are okay, they lack that distinct, special onscreen bond that sucks an audience into their world. Also, funny and mawkish background music are rendered in specific moments to coerce the audience into the mood and emotion, which gives the film an amateurish, manipulative feel.  In fact, the sound design is embarrassing.

The pivotal scene, the plot twist, unfortunately, is delivered so sloppily that it neither shocks nor strikes the heart. A major scene wasted on poor direction, making it predictable and silly.

In its entirety, the dramedy “Deadma Walking,” directed by Julius Alfonso, is never boring, has competent performances, and may delight some specific audiences. It has its small sparkling moments, including the Eugene Domingo parts, but overall it lacks emotional connection. As soon as the movie ends, you forget about John and Mark. Because you never really bonded with them.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Dec. 25, 2017 in Philippine cinemas, as part of the Metro Manila Film Festival

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