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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 29, 2017

Patay Na Si Hesus Movie Review: A Hilarious Black Comedy About A Death In The Family, With Outstanding Performances From The Ensemble Cast

‘PATAY NA SI HESUS’ was first shown in QCinema Filmfest in October last year, winning the Audience Choice Award and the Gender Sensitive Film award. We heard a lot of positive comments about it then, but didn’t get the chance to see it, so we’re glad that it was entered in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino where it became a surprise hit, being number two in the box office ranking after “100 Tula Para Kay Stella”.

We keep on hearing some filmmakers say that they’re doing a black comedy, but when we watch their work, it’s obvious that they don’t really understand what that means. They should then watch “Patay na si Hesus”, which does not refer to Jesus Christ but to the estranged husband of Maria Fatima or Iyay (Jaclyn Jose) who died in the story. The film will remind you of the late Soxie Topacio's "Ded na Si Lolo" which is also about the hilarious events concerning a death in the family.

Filmed in Cebuano Bisaya, the movie follows the journey of a lifetime of Iyay, a single mom who works as a food vendor, and her three children from Cebu to Dumaguete to attend the funeral of Hesus. There is initial resistance because the kids are not really inclined to pay their last respects to their dead dad. The eldest child is Hubert (Vincent Viado), who is a special one as he has Down syndrome. The second is Judith Marie (Chai Fonacier, who’s also in “Respeto”), a jilted lesbian whose nickname is Jude.

The youngest is Jay (Melde Montanez, said to be a lightman who auditioned for the role and was hired, this is his first acting job), a perennial board exams flunker and currently jobless. Joining them in their road trip in their minivan is their dog Hudas and their quirky ex-nun Aunt Linda (Mailes Kanapi, also Rocco Nacino’s wisecracking mom in “Barboys”).

Local comedies are known for their slapstick and often nonsensical humor where anything goes just to make the audience laugh. Director Victor Villanueva and scriptwriter Patrick Tabada attempt to come up with something different, and they do succeed in making “Patay Na si Hesus” quite an engaging character study of Iyay and her dysfunctional family.

During their road trip, they bring up old issues and fight, but also reconcile and make some important realizations in life about forgiveness and acceptance. And their jokes and gags, no matter how crude and irreverent, often hit the target, as evidenced in the loud laughs of the viewers inside the theater.

We get to see their various personalities, their peculiarities, their highs and lows and we are able to relate with most of their experiences. The difference in the locales showing the Cebu and Dumaguete landscape, including old churches and the Siliman University, is also a novelty in local cinema. Using Bisaya as its lingua franca lends authenticity to the movie, along with its characters and some Pinoy customs and traditions.

Jaclyn Jose is known for her dramatic prowess but here, she shows a different side of her, leading the competent ensemble cast in delivering the film’s touching combination of absurd humor and poignant drama. With astute comic timing, she does not overdo the comic scenes (the embarrassing “ataul” scene and “Patay na rin si Hudas”), but also the dramatic scenes and it’s to the credit of her co-stars that they are able to keep up with her.

Mailes Kanapi is an expert in portraying weird and loony characters and she’s at her craziest best here, obviously enjoying herself in portraying the nuttiness of her eccentric character that even shamelessly resorts to offensive toilet humor.

Chai Fonacier as the transgender daughter carries her role with so much conviction (she won the best supporting actress award at the recent Film Academy of the Philippines or FAP Awards Night). while newcomer Melde Montanez shines in his comic banter and verbal sparring with both Chai and Jaclyn. Vincent Viado as the mentally challenged son, who gets lost in one scene, manages to steal some scenes with his deadpan but funny delivery of the word “Char.”
We’re also happy for the producer of this film, Rex Tiri or T-Rex Films, because his company finally got to make a movie that is making money after their series of flops from “Esoterika” to “Moonlight Over Baler”. We heard that distribution rights to the movie was also bought by Columbia Pictures, so that’s another feather on their cap. Congratulations!