There are themes that surround “Si Chedeng at si Apple” that are no laughing matter, but the buddy movie of two best friends is filled with so much charm that it it gets us to laugh anyway.
Chedeng (Gloria Diaz) and Apple (Elizabeth Oropesa) are ladies in their golden years. Chedeng is caring for her ailing wheelchair-bound husband, while Apple suffers the brutal attacks of her abusive live-in partner. Both are not easy to watch once you realize that Chedeng and Apple come off as prisoners in their situations. But when both their husbands die, the pair drop their lives to chase after Chedeng’s one true love in Cebu, a woman she hasn’t seen in years.
It would be a simple little road trip movie about reclaiming a promise of love except they are carrying a severed head in a handbag and running away from the law.
The light-handed touch of directors Fatrick Tabada and Rae Red fills the movie with whimsy and cheer and diffuses the severity of the crime and allows you to tag along these older women as they let go of the lives they have led, including Chedeng’s grown-up children, and take an adventure to Cebu with nothing but hope in their hearts.
At 63, both Chedeng and Apple are women of a different time and era but when they finally are free of their social and marital obligations, their lives suddenly are once again filled with hope and youthful abandon.
While Diaz and Oropesa are obviously having a lot of fun with their roles, it would have served the film better had they been snappier in their dialogue. There’s a lot spaces and beats between the lines, which made it feel scripted. Had it been more conversational and more free-flowing, it would have really let the film fly.
But as it is, “Si Chedeng at si Apple” becomes a comedic look into all the possibilities of women and how men and society have prevented them from being their true selves. As an abused woman, Apple makes the clear statement that no one would have believed that she stayed with him for five years. While Chedeng’s story of marrying a man rather than her true love is reflective of what society thinks about lesbians and a woman’s place in the world. There is a symmetry there that Chedeng would have to be older now to be able to chase after what she really wants.
The film is filled with moral ambiguity. Yes, these women have suffered but they also have committed a crime but somehow the film finds a balance to absolve them of their darker choices. It’s the charm of Diaz and Oropesa and the lived-in friendship that is so tangible between them. It’s a comedy in the truest sense that no one really gets hurt and so we accept these character’s faults because we know where they are coming from and we even root for them.
The film never really ends properly, a clever little ellipses that lets us know that these characters’ adventures are not yet over and the film earns this. It’s a charming control of genre and tone that makes “Si Chedeng at si Apple” a lovely little gem of a movie.