On its surface, Julius Alfonso’s “Deadma Walking” resembles Jun Lana’s hugely successful “Die Beautiful”. The former features two gay best friends, the latter has transgender women as leads, but both have a storyline heavily anchored by the idea of death. In both films, the protagonists give specific instructions on how to hold their extravagant funerals. In “Die Beautiful”, Paolo Ballesteros’ character Trisha strictly instructs her best friend that during her wake, she wishes to transform her look by way of make-up into a different celebrity every day. In “Deadma Walking”, John (Joross Gamboa) asks his best friend Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman) to prepare a lavish wake after they execute an elaborate plan of faking his own death.
Despite having similarities with “Die Beautiful”, “Deadma Walking” tackles life, death, and friendship from a completely different angle. Based on the Carlos Palanca award-winning screenplay of the same name, the film is a comedy-drama that talks more about the friendship of the main characters, rather than their sexual orientation. John and Mark are gay best friends, but the film does not tread towards the struggles that they may have went through, growing up as homosexual boys in a predominantly Catholic country, nor does it show intimate scenes that are often typical of gay-themed local movies. The story digs deep into the relationship of the two characters to the point that the fact that they fall outside the heteronormative societal bucket feels like a mere footnote to the premise.
Ultimately, the charm of “Deadma Walking” comes from the remarkable performances between Joross Gamboa and Edgar Allan Guzman. They hold such palpable chemistry together; it isn’t hard to empathize with the characters whether the scene is comedic, heavy-drama, or just downright silly. Individually, you can also tell that they take their characters seriously, with Edgar Allan Guzman giving his all in portraying the loud and flamboyant Mark, and Joross’ subtle portrayal of the soft-spoken and serious John.
I can’t give such a high remark with regards to the film’s plot. In a handful of instances, the story gets sidetracked, indulging in needless detours, rendering its rear end to feel awkwardly hurried with forced resolutions. If it’s any consolation, these “distractions” are also where the film gifts us with great moments, including cameos from Eugene Domingo, Piolo Pascual, and Carmi Martin.
In a venue dominated by comedy films that try to pass off humor as a mere mixing of tasteless slapstick and mocking condescension, “Deadma Walking” is a breath of fresh air. It is one of the few gems of the Metro Manila Film Festival 2018, and it stands out by showing us that comedy has heart and not without brains.
2017 / Drama, Comedy / PH
Direction: Julius Alfonso
Screenplay: Eric Cabahug
Stars: Joross Gamboa, Edgar Allan Guzman, Gerald Anderson
A Palanca-winning comedy about gay best friends for life John (Joross Gamboa) and Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman) whose friendship is put to the test when one of them has a terminal illness and asks the other to help him stage his fake death, wake, and funeral as his dying wish. The result is a laugh-fest of “deadly” proportions.