REVIEW | ‘Deadma Walking’ plays with a tricky premise and delivers a fun and funny ride

December 11, 2017 - 8:37 PM
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Joross Gamboa and Edgar Allan Guzman in 'Deadma Walking.'

Metro Manila Film Festival entry “Deadma Walking” plays with a tricky premise: John discovers he has stage four cancer right after taking care of his mother and burying her (after her own battle with the same illness) and decides to fake his death so he can attend his own wake. Helping him through all of this is his best friend, Mark.

The whole idea of faking your own death to witness how people grieve and celebrate the life you’ve lived is probably something we’ve all thought of before but would never really do because it’s a cruel exercise in vanity. Yes, John is terminally ill and will pass on eventually, but puts his friends and family through that experience while he is alive and amongst them.

Softening the blow is the film’s outrageous comedic tone. From the get-go, the film is zany and doesn’t take itself seriously.

It frequently plays with fantasy sequences, dramatizing the plans of John and Mark, to constantly remind us that this is a comedy. It even goes as far as creating a fictional French arthouse film, starring Eugene Domingo, as her character in the faux movie flirts and then run aways from death.

While Joross Gamboa’s John gives a competent performance, it’s the charm of Edgar Allan Guzman as Mark that really pushes the laughs. My only caveat is that the crux of many of the jokes come from John and Mark being and acting gay rather than from the situations or physical comedy.

“Deadma Walking” is actually strongest when it plays on the situation at hand such as the utter shock of Mark when he sees John’s sister try to open the closed casket at the funeral, which would have given the whole charade up. It’s when the humor comes from the situation that it really shines. I feel there’s too much reliance on the humor of being gay.

In fact, despite its tricky and morally questionable premise, the script actually handles this well at the end. It addresses the cruelty with a heavy hand and a strong sense of irony that make it work.

However, director Julius Alfonso seems overly cautious about it and avoids the drama that comes with the narrative’s hook. I would have preferred if they mined the situation for all its emotional weight instead of diffusing it with a joke.

I wish there were more trust that the script addresses the cruelty of the fake death, which it does wonderfully, and mines the dramatic energy of the story premise. It could have been a much more powerful film.

But it’s a fun and funny ride nonetheless, enlivened by a fantastic performance by Edgar Allan Guzman. That alone is worth the price of admission.