So you think this indie film is all about the afterlife?
You're right. Except that it's not about a bright light that greets the dearly departed at the end of a long tunnel. It's not as Holy Week-ish as you'd think it is.
It's not as heavy as the title, with its visions of angels and clouds, suggests. In fact, Buhay Habangbuhay, which is part of the 2016 Cine Filipino Film Festival, has touches of comedy, along with drama and a generous dose of romance.
Sandy (Iza Calzado) doesn't realize her young life is over (she met her bloody end in the conjugal home's kitchen). So she goes about her wifely duties as if nothing's changed. She gets out of bed before her husband Joel (Jake Makapagal). She prepares the table for breakfast, cooks his first meal for the day. Then, she lovingly calls him to come on down, breakfast is ready.
It seems to be a regular day in the life of a married couple. But the husband buries his nose in the morning papers and walks past her as if she doesn't exist.
He's right. She no longer exists. He buried her after the ambulance fetched her that fateful day, never to physically return to the conjugal home.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS. Or so he thinks. Sandy still has unfinished business. So her spirit lingers. She watches over her husband like the proverbial hawk--while he's eating, taking a shower, brushing his teeth. Problem is, she can't follow her husband beyond the front street of their conjugal home. So she's left in the dark about his life in the outside world.
Dear hubby moves on with his life, but she doesn't. She sees him bringing home a female stranger who takes her place. But Sandy can't do anything about it.
Until something unexpected happens to Joel. He dies in Sandy's embrace. You're convinced Sandy will finally move on to where she belongs. Not quite. She takes on a new unfinished business, while her gay spirit-friend accompanies her on her journey.
It's a journey full of laughter, thanks to Sandy's spirit-friend whose weakness for muscular men remains as boundless as can be. It's also a journey replete with love and realizations.
Sandy--with Joel's help -- realizes how much she has emptied her love tank for others, she ends up holding the short end of the stick.
But she goes on, and discovers many good things along the way.
Iza's acting, as usual, shows depth and versatility. She cries one moment, bursts into laughter the next. She doesn't skip a bit.
The color of Iza's knee-length dress prepares the viewer for a change of mood in scene after scene. White, as usually, stands for the good. Black is a warning that something ominous is brewing.
The more important thing about the movie is its message about loving, helping others and being good. It shows that these virtues do not cease at the end of life. It shows that some things are not limited by boundaries of space and time.
EXPLANATIONS, PLEASE. The movie is far from perfect, of course. Some scenes beg for explanations.
How did Joel catch the ailment that caused his death, changed everybody's life, and made the plot thicken?
How was Sandy finally able to venture away from the conjugal home to visit Joel's funeral, among other places?
Some characters--like those from the afterlife--merely served as curious additions, not essential elements of the story.
And then, they look more like glum monks, with matching billowing smoke for cinematic effect, than spirits.
But if you need some reprieve after the passing of a loved one--this one's for you. It will make you feel better. You might even find yourself chuckling, thanks to the movie's light scenes.
Not bad for a less-than-two-hour movie about living, dying, and moving on.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.
MOVIE REVIEW: Iza Calzado shows depth and versatility in Buhay Habangbuhay
by Maridol Ranoa-Bismark posted on March 22, 2016