Monday, December 31, 2018

Rainbow's Sunset

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Senator Ramon Estrella (Eddie Garcia) receives a lifetime achievement award from his high school. He gives a humorous speech thanking his wife Sylvia (Gloria Romero) and long-time friend Alfredo (Tony Mabesa). The inclusion of the latter makes the politician’s children uneasy. Emman (Tirso Cruz III), the eldest, knows that the two have been in a homosexual relationship for the longest time. Georgina (Aiko Melendez) thinks that her father’s decision to come out will hurt her chances in the local political scene. The youngest, Marife (Sunshine Dizon), is the liberal thinker of the three and believes that Philippine society is ready for such tradition-breaking revelations. When Alfredo undergoes operation and is consequently put on bedrest, Ramon moves out of the family home to live with his ill lover. Fighting for their mother as well as the family’s reputation, the three devise ways to break the two apart. Amidst their personal dramas, the family also starts to fall apart, leaving Ramon torn between love and familial duties.

The thing about mainstream LGBTQ-themed films is that they tend to exist for the sake of existing, most of them half-baked attempts shouting inclusion. The indie scene offers way better alternatives most of the time given less pressure to make money at the box office. For a mainstream film with such a theme, Rainbow’s Sunset is not that bad. Going for a storyline like this enables the narrative to cater not just to the LGBTQ market, but also to the elderly demographic that also deserves cinematic representation.

Luckily, the movie boasts an ensemble cast led by veterans who make up for some of the ham acting waiting for you here and there. Garcia has done hundreds of films in his lifetime, but his foray in the indie scene as of late has been quite memorable. Here he lends the narrative just enough of the much-needed credibility to avoid yet another failed mainstream experiment. Joined by Romero and Mabesa who themselves are no pushovers in the acting department, the film becomes tolerable to watch.

Cruz III, Melendez, and Dizon, for the brilliant actors that they are, get weighed down a bit by their respective characters’ subplots which seem to be better suited for a soap opera. We acknowledge, however, that such characterization is necessary to effectively demonstrate the toll an extra-marital affair can have on a family, regardless of the sexual orientation of the main parties involved. While the film visits these subplots from time to time, they do not distract much from the main storyline.

As for the ending, the twist felt a bit predictable and convenient, yet poignant nonetheless. After all, this is Ramon’s story to tell. As with most stories concerning the elderly, you are hit with certain realizations about what they must face in their daily lives as an integral part of a community that is no longer that welcoming to them. In any case, the film succeeds in reinforcing the traditional Filipino culture of taking care of their elders as opposed to the more detached and practical approach prevalent in the west.

All in all, films like this are still necessary to maintain balance in a Metro Manila Film Festival that offers a more and more similar set of options every year. A family drama is still a good way to preserve core Filipino values, at least in the face of non-sense comedies and teenybopper chick flicks that are fun, but all look the same. After all, this is still an annual festival geared towards the entire family. Rainbow’s Sunset is not perfect, but there is an attempt there, and maybe that’s a good start.

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