‘’Patay na si Hesus’’ reminded me of long road trips. Usually my mother’s idea. Sometimes she’d force us to go, if we weren’t that excited. In the car, a story about how hard things were for her, raising two kids who eat a bit too much and aren’t really excited about a lot of things would follow. Like every story, there is a lesson and in my mother’s story, despite the variations every time she tells it, the point is: we should be lucky to even have the time and money to go on road trips. In the end, even though we weren’t that excited, like the road film, the open road changes us bit by bit, and we learn a lot more about our mother and her tough love. And we end up looking forward to the next road trip.
‘’Patay na si Hesus’’ has well-written characters that, most, if not all Filipino families can relate to. For me, it reminded me of the people around me when I was growing up in the so-called ‘’province.’’ And that’s the film’s greatest strength. You know, aside from the inappropriate, offensive humor, which helps make the film all the more hilarious.
The film follows Iyay (wonderfully played by Jaclyn Jose), a single mom who forces her three children and their dog Hudas to embark on a long trip. A trip to visit the wake of her ex-husband Hesus. It appears that Iyay has some unresolved feelings for her ex-husband. The fact that her children have issues of their own doesn’t make the trip any easier. Her eldest son Hubert (Vincent Viado) has Down Syndrome. He seems to be the only one who has no issues, actually. Her only daughter Jude (Chai Fonacier) is a lesbian who has a troublesome relationship with her girlfriend. Her other son, Jay is still unemployed, and is also having some troubles of his own with his girlfriend. They find out something different about each other in each stop and they will be different people when they reach their destination. As cliché as it sounds, it’s not the destination that matters in this film, but the journey. And that’s all I can say about the story. Otherwise, there will be no surprises left.
What I love the most about the film is the way the characters are written. They remind me a lot about my family. Not that my family is a bit dysfunctional. We all get along fine. Sadly, that might also mean that we’re not the kind of family that’s worthy of being on the big screen. Going back to the characters, though, I really love Iyay. Of course, it helps that Jaclyn Jose’s performance is just so natural—almost as if the character was made to be played only by her. Personally, Iyay reminded me of my own mother. And her own brand of tough love. It was almost as if I was seeing an incarnation of my mother on the big screen, so much so that I can’t help but think of her while I was watching the film.
Aside from Iyay, there’s Hubert. I just love Hubert. For one, it showed that Down Syndrome can’t stop you from being a good actor. It also reminded me of my late uncle who also had Down Syndrome. He was fun in his own way, just like Bert. And he loved everyone, no matter how imperfect they were, just like Bert. It’s comforting to know that to a certain degree, unknowingly, someone understands your family, or the Filipino family in general, for being able to portray characters like that.
Jude and Jay were also wonderful, mostly because it was them who made me laugh out loud the most. That scene with Jay and a certain fluid was just so inappropriate and hilarious. It will stick with me for a while. Pun intended. When it comes to Filipino comedies, it’s mostly slapstick, and I just love how the film didn’t rely on such a form of comedy. It mostly involves jokes that would probably offend you if you’re easily offended. Or if you’re religious, which you’d probably expect from a film with a title like ‘’Patay na si Hesus’’ and with a dog named Hudas. It’s just good-natured humor, though. Or is it? Suffice to say, it’s dark comedy at its finest.
It’s quite refreshing to see the sights of the Cebu and Dumaguete countryside. It evokes a sense of nostalgia. Not that I’m from Cebu or Dumaguete. The Iloilo countryside is not that different, though. The film’s setting is a welcome break from the urban jungle of Metro Manila. As someone from the ‘’province’’ who’s living and working in Manila, aside from missing my mother, it made me feel a bit homesick.
‘’Patay na si Hesus’’ is that kind of film where you don’t have to be a cinephile to appreciate. And I mean that in a good way. I’m not saying that it’s too simplistic. I’m saying that it’s a film that speaks to you right away as a Filipino. It’ll remind you of your family. Your mom’s cooking. Your hometown. Your dog. Your relative who’s a bum. And it does all this while making you laugh. When you’re having a rather stressful day, be sure to watch the film.
Martin, aka “The Earl”, has a graduate degree in Japan Studies from the University of the Philippines. He’s an Arctic Monkeys fan, knows his whiskey, and his films. For more of his reviews, visit his page at https://letterboxd.com/mat914/.