Friday, June 12, 2009

IndioBravo: 100

100 days are often used to measure new presidential administrations or wars, but for Joyce De Leon, it represents her approximate left on this earth. The winner of the Audience Award at the 2008 Pusan International Film Festival, Chris Martinez’s film 100 (trailer here), screened last night as part of the opening night festivities of the inaugural IndioBravo Film Festival showcasing Filipino cinema.

Joyce De Leon is frighteningly organized. When she learns of her imminent demise, she writes down everything she must finish on a series of post-it notes. While some pertain to mundane chores, others involve the things she would like to do before it is too late. Those post-its give 100 a structure much like The Bucket List, but Martinez’s film is not about a quick hedonistic fling before the final curtain falls. Ultimately, Joyce’s to-do list will draw her closer to the people who really matter in her life—her family and her best friend Ruby.

100 starts out as a bittersweet female buddy comedy, as Joyce and Ruby try to live in the moment as best they can. However, as the film progresses, the tone inevitably becomes much more serious. Fortunately, the quality of 100’s sensitive featured performances and some dark humor prevent it from slipping into mere soap opera territory.

Since many of those post-its involve eating, 100 also follows in the tradition of other cooking-as-metaphor movies with their lovingly filmed scenes of food preparation, like Babette’s Feast, Eat Drink Man Woman, and A Touch of Spice. While there are plenty of other cinematic tasks on Joyce’s agenda, like bathing in the rain, the heart of the film concerns her relationships with her widowed mother, her best-friend Ruby, and her mysterious former lover Emil.

Despite the frequently unglamorous circumstances of her character’s illness, Mylene Dizon is a radiant screen presence as Joyce. She compellingly conveys all the contradictory emotions of a woman coming to terms with her impending mortality. Eugene Domingo also brings welcome energy to the tragic proceedings as Ruby, hitting the right comedic notes to lighten the mood without overplaying the material. Tessie Thomas is a bit more melodramatic as Joyce’s mother Eloisa, but she poignantly expresses the pain of a parent losing a daughter.

100 is not afraid to jerk the tears, but Martinez navigates his way to the emotional climax so skillfully, the audience never feels cheaply manipulated. He also uses effective images of the country’s striking natural beauty to emphasize how small and fleeting one human life can be. While some might label 100 a “chick flick,” it has an emotional directness that is surprisingly affecting. It screens again tomorrow night (6/13) at the Visual Arts Theater as part of the IndioBravo Film Festival.