Nailing the Coffin
by Jansen Musico

Two Funerals (2010)
D: Gil Portes
S: Tessie Tomas, Xian Lim, Epy Quizon

If there’s one thing you can take away from Gil Portes’ Two Funerals, it is this: Tessie Tomas is one fine actress. Give her any character, be it an obsessed Imelda Marcos impersonator (The Red Shoes) or a rigid pawnshop owner (Sanglaan), and she’ll sell it to you with ease. In Two Funerals she is Pilar, a woman in search of her daughter’s body after a mortuary mix-up.

The film opens when the corpse of an unknown man is delivered to Pilar’s doorstep in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, North of Luzon. Apparently, Charm, her deceased daughter, was accidentally delivered to Matnog, Sorsogon. This forces Pilar, together with her daughter’s fiancé Gerry (Xian Lim) and funeral parlor workers Tommy and Tonio (Epy Quizon and Leo Mier), to travel all the way to the southern tip of Luzon to make the switch. Thus their sadistic road trip begins.

This dark comedy written by Enrique Ramos is ambitious in terms of narrative and yet it fails to deliver results. For starters, the movie isn’t able to get out of the hackneyed conventions of road trip flicks. The characters are treated like tumbleweeds being blown in several directions, none of which are right. There are too many politically charged set-ups which prolong their trip but, in no way, move the story forward. An example of which is when a hysterical Ynez Veneracion and her priest lover enter Pilar’s van, without asking and with no apparent hesitations, so they can hitch a ride to the nearby church in search for their son. Perhaps the social commentaries were included to depict the political and religious atmosphere of Luzon during the election season, but with sequences like these running for less than a few minutes, they are rendered ineffective. The film’s twist—also a political commentary—is severely weak. Not only was it obvious from the moment it was being foreshadowed, its big reveal was also rushed and negligible. Visually, there were too many location shots which only serve as decorations. They are good for aesthetics, but do not motivate any action.

What saved this movie from ultimately flat lining are the strong performances of select actors. Benjie Felipe and Mon Confiado are effectively funny as the two hustlers who use the switcheroo to their advantage. Epy Quizon also supplies a large portion of the laughs playing a married gay man with tendencies of going back to his old ways. But as stated earlier, the star of the film is definitely Tessie Tomas. In the film’s most climactic scene, she breaks down in front of her daughter’s casket, letting her emotions overflow towards the audience. To much dismay, the drama is cut short when Xian Lim enters the frame. Although it is obvious that he tried his best, his acting just seemed juvenile beside the prowess displayed by his veteran cast mates.

While technically sound, Two Funerals' biggest downfall is that it tries too hard. Just like an unfortunate road trip, it starts off enjoyable before the van goes off track, gets lost, and reaches its destination way too late.