Wednesday, May 16, 2018

CINE FILIPINO 2018: Review of DELIA & SAMMY: Compassion for the Choleric

May 15, 2018

There had been a lot of local indie films that dealt with the idiosyncrasies of senior citizens. Off the top of my head, I remember "Bwakaw" (2012), "1st Ko si 3rd" (2014), "Hiblang Abo" (2016), "Paki" (2017). This new film, written and directed by Therese Anne Cayaba (in her feature directorial debut, no less), gives us yet another facet of how our seniors live their waning years under the shadow of disease and their past sins. 

Delia Villamor is a retired movie actress, a proud demanding woman who can be very manipulative to get her neighbors to do her bidding. She had been ignoring her own health issues to devote her time caring for her husband. Sammy Villamor is a retired military officer, a pathologic philanderer who was now suffering from signs of dementia. Because of their unpleasant personality quirks, both of them were not easy to like or root for. 

Delia got the newly-hired village security guard Roger to drive them (supposedly to the hospital) in their old, long-unused Mercedes Benz. However, midway, Delia revealed that she wanted Roger to drive them all the way to Baguio City in order to visit and reconnect with Sammy's estranged brother Manolo. However, like Roger, the car did not seem to be up for the long trip.

Rosemarie Gil, the matriarch of the talented Eigenmann family of actors, returns to the screen after a very long absence. Because of her strong Castillian features, I remembered her to always play strict imposing characters in the past. To play Delia, Gil did not have to veer too far from real life, as Delia was also a movie star, and a "contravida" to boot. But the challenge was to portray a long-suffering martyr wife who still loved her husband despite all his faults, and Gil shone best in those scenes. 

Gil won the MMFF Best Supporting Actress award as burlesque star Virgie Nite whom Chato (Vilma Santos) initially served in "Burlesk Queen" (Celso Ad Castillo, 1977), a clip of which was actually included in this film. Finally, Gil gets nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Delia, and won.

Jaime Fabregas had been a character actor on film and TV for four decades now, and is still very active. Sammy had all these peculiar behavioral tics, like being violent to homosexuals or overly charming to ladies, which Fabregas so smoothly portrayed. Despite Sammy's disagreeable character, Fabregas somehow made him delightful. 

Fabregas had won a sweep of the Best Supporting Actor awards from various award-giving bodies in 1999 for his portrayal of a Spanish officer Taviel in "Jose Rizal" (Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 1998). Like it was for his co-star Gil, it was only now that Fabregas was nominated for Best Actor, and likewise, he deservedly won. 

Nico Antonio had been playing a lot of varied characters from petty criminals to florid gays in several indie films, and he has indeed gained a name for being an efficient character actor. With his big droopy eyes, he also had played kind-hearted pushovers before, and his Roger here is another one of those in that category. We can all identify with Roger's predicament of being duped into going to great lengths to help, yet still feeling unappreciated for all his efforts way beyond the call of his duty. 

Dido dela Paz and Lui Manansala played Manolo and Alma, the relatives the Villamors visited in Baguio. The versatile Anthony Falcon played their transgender daughter Jessica, formerly known as Jimbo, whom Sammy beat up before for being gay. Tessie Tomas was in a featured role as Carmen, an actress with whom Sammy had a long affair before.

The story is not exactly new. "Paki" last year was also about a wife who had long suffered with a chronically philandering husband. However, Therese Cayaba gave her script her own little personal twists to set this one apart. The road trip did not feel realistically possible because that beat up car could not have made it up the steep zigzag roads. There were awkward moments during the visit in Baguio that were not very well staged. Anyhow, despite all its little faults, it was the performances of Rosemarie Gil and Jaime Fabregas that made this film fresh and essential to watch. 7/10. 

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