Earning accolades at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival is a riveting, sentimental going under the name of Die Beautiful. Giving pride to our local cinema for pleasing international audiences, it has gained social media buzz and has since then ignited the excitement of the Filipino mass, mostly for the praise that its lead actor had received. Now that it has made it as an official entry to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival, we are given a chance to not just witness what makes it so great, but also an opportunity to figuratively live out a life that has been viewed by our society as virtually invisible and vain. After all that happens in just the span of two long but compelling hours, you’ll just never be able to look at them the same ever again.
But really, what makes it such an extravaganza after all? It just turns out that, Die Beautiful is a scaled-down yet monumental weeping testament to the group of society that has been execrated and disrespected; gently but cheerfully laying out the truth that all genders are equal and that everyone experiences the same without having the need to go for complex, pitiful explanations to come to a halt as an intensely resounding documentation of one’s own precious life. With such gestures being expressed, it ends up expanding from just a film into a relevant statement spoken in a simple cinematic language that appeals to each and all; an amusing experience that takes us into the life of a gay man that digs deeper and deeper into the mound that shaped him into who he is – providing us a proper and nearly accurate understanding that shall eradicate blurred perceptions with regards to the third sex.
Simplicity is found and used to charming effects in the way that it tells its story, working its intensity with drama and humor, effectively making an impact from beginning to end as we literally see Trisha’s (Ballesteros) life getting flashed onscreen. Jumping back and forth in time, going from present to past, we are given time to find out about the agonies and frivolities of the one with cold feet. Some threads in the narrative though, feel misplaced, but fortunately, they never feel inferior enough to ruin the fabric of the very film; only ending up as wrongly knitted stitches that could easily be overlooked just as comedy usually overpowers the drama in the back and forth that occurs. While it does strike down the emotions that we should be feeling, in the end, it is given a great amount of meaning to this tale dowsed in misery and desire as we figure out just how wondrous this character’s life went; evoking a wide spectrum of human feelings that puts us in his shoes, and produces little moments to hold dear and get traumatized with that sorely slaps and imprints a lasting mark.
It is no doubt, a picture that gains as much allure as its beautiful title that gives us a peek into the power that it holds within, that exclaims to a certain flamboyant community in a manner that would make them look up at themselves. Lana’s treatment surely feels as if it’s a gift that is carefully wrapped and delicately arranged. The labor soon turns into a fabulous present that would mean a whole lot more to the millions of men that he delivers them to; the present being a tale of joy and pain led by the revelation that is Paolo Ballesteros – a sparkling, ravishing treasure whose shine gleams and glitters on every side; a presence who makes himself easily discernible in every minute frosted in gold. His dramatic talents are unearthed and displayed without nothing to be spared; utilizing his brilliance through his role that seems to be a perfect fit for his bravura that strokes nearly iconic colloquy; delivering dialogue that comes from the heart, and attacks the viewer in levels that are bound to leave them speechlessly floored.
Ornamenting his diamond-like persona is Christian Bables who plays Trisha’s best friend Barbs. Much like Ballesteros, Bables blooms together with his co-star, and never fails to get on his level; always asserting that he is a prestigious marvel to look out for in upcoming productions while the former brings out into the open something that we had not expected from him. Both Ballesteros and Bables work with the material that they are given with full commitment, never breaking out of character, and it is through that passion that gives the whole project an everlasting glow in spite of the little blemishes that try to diminish its luster; rightfully boasting their worthiness of bagging gold.
As you approach the very end that repeats the monologue heard in the beginning with dampened eyes, you’ll feel your heart shatter deep inside just as you realize how hard it is to live that and be like that. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll most definitely applaud this masterpiece that shall be the very film that revolutionizes the queers, and presents them as a singular force to be treated with just as much respect and importance as anyone deserves. It is just too heartfelt and revolutionary to not have a spot in one’s heart, for the life that we get to see here is just as beautiful and purposeful as anyone else’s. Celebrated filmmaker Jun Robles Lana just makes that so remarkably clear in every way there is; crafting a virtually flawless biographical account of severe relevance that shimmers so brightly.
- Die Beautiful is now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide. Rated R-13 by the MTRCB.