Movie Review: Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes is a Funny, Empathetic Beginner’s Guide to the LGBTQA+ Community

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGrpUw4-MZY

TL;DR: Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes (The Two Mrs. Reyes) turns a problematic premise into a funny, insightful look at sex, gender & the LGBTQA+community.

Filipino mainstream film studio Star Cinema’s first movie for 2018 – co-produced with Quantum Films & The IdeaFirst Company – has two cishet women receiving a crash course on the complexities of sex & gender in the worst way possible, after they found out their husbands are in a romantic relationship, bolting out of their lives & leaving them alone to pick up the pieces.

It’s not like their marriages were perfect to begin with. Lilian Reyes (Judy Ann Santos) is a successful owner of a plastic surgery clinic, who barely has any time with her husband Gary (Joross Gamboa) & her daughter Macy (Andrea Brillantes). She suspects Gary is cheating on her with a busty colleague, which pushes her to have breast implants. Cindy Reyes (Angelica Panganiban) is a loving wife who will do anything to please her husband Felix (JC de Vera). She also wants to be more sexually intimate with him, especally since her annoying mother-in-law (Carmi Martin) wants to have a grandson, but Felix rarely reciprocates her advances, spending more time with his cat rather with his wife.

So when both of their partners left without any warning, only to find out they’ve been in the closet for their entire lives, it was a devastating blow that left them reeling for answers. It took a while for them to talk to their husbands to clarify the situation or at least try to put things back to the way it used to be, but when they did, it got even more confusing for them. Gary is came out as a trans woman attracted to men, while Felix is heteroflexible cis man. They’re trying to take things in stride, but can’t get over the fact that they were cheated on, so what do they do: they’re going to split them up as a form of revenge before they get married in Taiwan.

It’s a very tricky premise that could easily go south, but director Jun Robles Lana handles it delicately. It’s not a surprise if you’re familiar with his work, since he’s directed a lot of classic queer Filipino films like Bwakaw & the surprise hit of Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 Die Beautiful; the latter of which is about the wake of a transgender woman & her friends trying their best to give her the funeral she wanted, while it flashes back from her complicated life to the grim present. But what he does here is nothing short of astounding. He lays out the nature of these two marriages, even before their husbands come out.

And once it does, the movie never turns the two Mr. Reyes into the butt of the jokes. They have a genuine relationship that is treated with utmost respect & nuance. It’s still chaste – which I assume is because our ratings board can be very harsh on queer movies – but it isn’t depicted as perfect either. They’re clearly in love but they have fights just like any other couple.

But the movie’s main focus is on our titular characters processing their unusual circumstances. They are at a loss as they are forced to understand the nuances gender identity & sexual orientation; especially once they start pulling off their plan to split them up. This might be the first Filipino fictional film to acknowledge the existence of other sexual orientations outside of gay & lesbian — such as pansexual & heteroflexible – & to mention LGBTQQIP2SAA with an explanation of what that means. They do mean well, even if they are don’t know what it means to be trans.

However, it also understands that they are coming from a place of sadness, confusion, & anger. It knows that their revenge, while juvenile & mean, is rooted in being shoved aside as their husbands form a new life without them. It even acknowledges how their duplicitous marriage is partly caused by a homophobic society that forces people to hide in the closet & lead unhappy, double lives to survive discrimination & violence. But it never loses sight of how horrible their plan is, especially once the two Mr. Reyes fears are suddenly realized.

Still, it doesn’t let the two Mr. Reyes get off the hook easily either. They did depart their wives without any proper explanation or time to process the news, & cheated on them, even if they aren’t heterosexual. That doesn’t mean they deserve hatred for coming out or because of their sexuality. They just completely mishandled the situation that left their wives wondering what went wrong.

What’s arresting is how Judy Ann Santos & Angelica Panganiban portray the complexity of what Lilian & Cindy go through with ease. Judy Ann Santos & Angelica Panganiban are great conspirators who find friendship through heartbreak. Panganiban is lively, snappy, & full of seething rage. Santos is less lively compared to Panganiban, despairing over the fact that an aspect of her life is now over, but she’s still capable of lashing out. Their different energies complement each other & it shows in their fast, comic banter.

And it is gut-bustingly hilarious! This is one of Star Cinema’s raunchier efforts – as raunchy one could get in the Philippines – yet it never relies on vulgarity alone. It is smart, silly, & at times slapstick, culminating in a memorable scene involving Lilian’s breast implants. Yet, it never loses sight of what all of them are going through.

That’s because Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes has huge empathy for all of its characters, even as it puts them through ridiculous situations. What’s impressive is it maintains a light comic touch even as it tackles the plight of the LGBTQQIP2SAA community through the eyes of two cishet females. As Lilian & Cindy learn, we should accept & allow them to live & love fully. Love is a beautiful thing that chooses no boundaries. Why bother getting in the way?

Metro Manila Film Festival 2017: Deadma Walking Finds Heart & Humor in the Face of Death

TL;DR: Even with its cheap gay jokes & a rushed ending, Deadma Walking finds the heart & humor in its ridiculous premise.

Dark comedies about death are tricky to pull off. It’s a depressing topic that can be callous or insensitive if handled incorrectly, but if done right, it can shine a light on our foibles to cope at one of the few things that make us human. Death is no laughing matter, but it’s easier to laugh in the face of our demise. Why shouldn’t we? We’re all going to die anyway.

In that respect, Deadma Walking succeeds. It’s a hilarious farce that grows even more absurd until the very end, without ignoring the sweet relationship at the heart of the movie.

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Jon (Joross Gamboa) is the rich gay son of a famous beauty queen who finds out he is terminally ill. Instead of dealing with the inescapable awareness of death like a normal person, he schemes with his flamboyant gay best friend Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman), a talented theater actor, to fake his own death & set up his own funeral while he’s still alive, since he wants people to remember him at his best & to see how his life would be celebrated; unlike her mother whose photos during her final days were spread all over the news, eclipsing who she was at her prime. Mark is initially hesitant, because it is an insane plan, but once he warms up to the idea, he becomes the host to an extravagant funeral dedicated to his best friend. Of course, complications arise, especially once her estranged sister returns to the Philippines.

But before we even get to the funeral, the movie takes its time to reveal the lives of Jon & Mark & their relationship as best friends. It’s a smart move, since it sets up the emotional foundation of the movie that makes it easier to buy into its crazy premise, even as the funeral becomes more absurd by the day. Joross Gamboa & Edgar Allan Guzman are great as best friends who will stick together through thick & thin. Edgar Allan Guzman has the flashier performance, due to Mark’s more energetic personality, while Joross Gamboa gives Jon a hint of sadness that shows how worried he is about his impending death.

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Yet, it’s never depressing because the movie is ridiculously funny. The crazy premise allows it to come up with a bunch of ridiculous gags & an excuse for surprising cameos. Oddly enough, there are times where it uses the leads’ sexuality as a punchline, finding ways to make them act as stereotypical flamboyant gays at the sight of handsome, muscular men. Jokes like this ruin what could’ve a purely absurd farce, but the deep characterizations & silly jokes outweigh them.

By the movie’s end, it hones exactly what the movie is about, even if it resolves a conflict too neatly. It’s a tribute to the strong bond between two people who deeply care & love each other, even in the face of death. If you’re going to die sooner, you might as well have your best friend with you by your side.

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Metro Manila Film Festival 2017: All of You Focuses Too Much on the Rut

TL;DR: All of You could’ve been a layered examination of cohabitation or a slow breakdown of a mismatched couple, but it gets too dour & repetitive to make it work.

Two years after breaking off with her fiance, Gab (Jennylyn Mercado) tries online dating for the first time while researching for a business venture in Taiwan. She matches up with Gabby (Derek Ramsey), a businessman on vacation who co-owns a bar called “Neverland” with his friends. They’re both attracted to each other & quickly hit it off after their first date, continuing to see each other in the Philippines for months. When Gabby asked Gab to move with him – even though their relationship is so young they’ve only been together for less than a year – she agrees, but what they didn’t expect is how living together would be harder than they thought.

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Dan Villegas, who continues to mine mature stories out of couples trying to navigate the modern world without breaking themselves apart. It starts out with so much promise, with Dan Villegas, Melissa Mae Chua, & Carl Chavez showing off their ability to create realistic, engaging dialogue between two people falling in love. As usual, Jennylyn Mercado & Derek Ramsey are irresistible as a couple, whose romantic sparks just fly off the screen, but this time, they have more intimate scenes compared to their previous movie English Only, Please that further their bond.

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But once they start living together, the movie slowly reveals how incompatible they are for each other, their personalities & habits clashing frequently. This would’ve made for a fascinating romantic drama about the pleasures & pitfalls of cohabitation, but the movie slightly shifts its focus at how their inability to compromise & match their priorities will slowly erode whatever love they have for each other. The movie presents this descent with the same grounded tone Villegas is known for. Jennylyn Mercado & Derek Ramsey get a chance to stretch their acting chops as a couple trying to hold onto their relationship, even as their frustrations get the better of them. And throughout the movie, Dexter dela Peña’s simple yet eye-catching compositions shine through.

Unfortunately, it focuses too much on the descent. The whole movie turns into a bleak look at the main couple, without offering any respite from the doom & gloom, that whatever pleasures or insights that can be gleamed are drowned by its bitter, repetitive tone. Not too mention it ends on a false, abrupt note that, while plausible, feels like it shrugged off everything that happened during their relationship since we weren’t privy to the changes that happened leading up to it & it’s a betrayal of what the movie is about: love just isn’t enough to make a relationship work. Just like its central couple, the individual elements surrounding All of You could’ve made it great, but it just doesn’t add up to a satisfying whole.

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