"Patay na si Hesus" was first an entry to the QCinema filmfest 2016. It won two awards: the Audience Choice Award and the Gender Sensitive Film award. This week, it will be shown nationwide as one of the 12 films in the first edition of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.
This Cebuano dark comedy is about a mother, Maria Fatima (Iyay for short), who got her three adult kids together on a long drive from Cebu to Dumaguete to attend the funeral of their long-estranged father Hesus. The eldest child, Hubert, has Down's syndrome. The middle child, Judith Marie, is a lesbian/trans man named Jude. The youngest child, Jay, is jobless bum who had not passed his board exams yet. With their cute dog Hudas and crazy aunt Lucy, Iyay's family squeezed into their trusty minivan for one roadtrip of a lifetime.
Jaclyn Jose had just won Best Actress in Cannes for the intense drama "Ma' Rosa" just before starring in this wacky film as Iyay. I had always seen Ms. Jose in serious dramas, so her astutely sharp comic timing displayed in this film was a delightful discovery. I remember how there was buzz for her to win Best Actress at QCinema last year, and now I see clearly why. Her Iyay was a strong survivor of circumstance, but sense of humor never left her. Iyay's scene in front of Hesus' coffin is so screwy embarrassing, we all felt the shame.
Chai Fonacier attacked the role of Jude with such honesty. (I saw her in the Cinemalaya favorite "Respeto" just before this, and am now a fan of her work.) It was interesting to know that Melde Montanez, who delivered most of looniest gags as the irrepressible Jay (including one nasty one about a certain bodily fluid), was only in his first major outing as an actor. Vincent Viado was adorable in his portrayal of their Kuya Bert, proving that Down syndrome is no hindrance to be an actor.
Mailes Kanapi had always been known for her weirdo roles, but this turn as the unhinged nun Lucy takes the cake as her most daringly outrageous of all the roles I had seen her in. OK, this was toilet humor taken to the max, but only Ms. Kanapi can deliver those insane lines so naturally, and then still top that afterwards with what is probably the boldest oblational scene of physical comedy on local cinema.
Written by Patrick Tabada and directed by Victor Villanueva, this film is a roller coaster ride full of the irreverent and idiotic yet tempered with depth and heart. It was clear why this was an audience favorite. It highlights close family ties that all Filipinos can identify with and consider precious. There are so many small jokes between the big ones, spoken or visual, that usually hit the target, as can be evidenced by the loud laughter of the viewers.
As the title suggests, religion is a butt of some jokes, which may be considered offensive by some conservative audiences. That said, the humor is good-natured and pleasant, well.. most of the time. By the time it reaches that hilarious ending when we see the family with the funeral cortege passing by, we will all be laughing out loud. It is an indelible classically absurd silly image to remember this film by for years to come. 9/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."