Father (and Actor) of the Year: A Review Of 'Rainbow’s Sunset'
Heaven’s Best Entertainment’s entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival is the Joel Lamangan-directed Rainbow’s Sunset. As the trailer has been showing for some time now, it isn’t a spoiler to mention that this will be the film with a serious LGBTQ theme; and it stars Eddie Garcia, Tony Mabesa, and Gloria Romero in the lead roles. From a story by Eric Ramos, the movie will touch on family, sexual identity, acceptance, inclusion, and tolerance. It’s also the MMFF film that has potential acting awards stamped all over it.
As the retired senator/patriarch of a political family in the province, Ramon (Eddie Garcia) would seem to be coasting to his sunset along with wife Sylvia (Gloria Romero); when he suddenly announces he plans to move in with his best friend from childhood Fredo (Tony Mabesa), as Fredo is dying from cancer and Ramon wants to spend his last days tending and caring for Fredo. Naturally, this sends seismic shock waves through Ramon’s family; one daughter (Aiko Melendez) is the town’s mayor, following in the political footsteps of her father, while the eldest son (Tirso Cruz III) works in the municipio’s Assessor’s Office, and youngest daughter (Sunshine Dizon) heads a local Women’s Rights NGO. Down to the grandchildren, Ramon’s decision causes consternation over what the townsfolk will say, how he’ll be ridiculed, whether it’s fair to his wife, and what the family can say or do in response.
What follows is a multi-strand narrative that has us examining how Ramon’s decision impacts on the family at different levels, and how difficult it is to reach true Acceptance. Thematically, this premise of a senior citizen coming out of the closet, or having LGBTQ implications, has been tackled in such films as 2010’s Beginners (with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer), and 2017’s A Fantastic Woman (from Chile); but Rainbow’s Sunset is conceptualized as a sprawling family saga, and presents something unique precisely because of these multiple touch points.
Much is made of the diversity in response from Ramon’s three children, how each of them has to find his or her own path to understanding their father. And what makes this film positively shine are the scenes with the three senior artists - when Eddie Garcia, Tony Mabesa, and Gloria Romero are in a scene, the film literally glows. And the flashbacks of the young Ramon and Fredo are priceless in helping us understand the complexity of their relationship; and why Sylvia is such an understanding person. Kudos to the production team for recreating the 50s and 60s for these flashback scenes.
However, it’s strength can also be its weakness. If I have to fault the film, it would be how some story threads are left loose and hanging. These would include how the narrative creates the possibility of a lesbian grand-daughter (was waiting for a heart-to-heart between her and Lolo Ramon), and how much is made of the fraud being perpetuated by Tirso’s character and the Mayor’s (Aiko) husband, but it just disappears. Since one of the major themes is acceptance, I would have also liked a scene of Ramon’s children explaining to their children about this decision of their Lolo - especially as one grandson got into a fight over the issue in his school.
But that this film even exists is a credit to the producers and individuals involved in the project. Putting these LGBTQ themes within everyday circumstances is always of help in making the issues more real and understandable. One big twist in the narrative is delivered dramatically via an overheard line coming from Fredo, and if there’s something to truly take away from this film, is how the likes of Eddie, Tony and Gloria are such treasures of the Philippine arts. That at their age they’re still at it, and giving us such viewing pleasure, is something to appreciate.
Eddie Garcia at 89 is quite likely the busiest actor this year; and after copping the Best Actor plum for ML at the 2018 CineMalaya, and for Hintayan ng Langit at this year’s QCinema, it would be such a feat for him to win MMFF Best Actor for Rainbow’s Sunset. Three Best Actor nods in one year for three different films - does the man ever stop, and do we even want him to?
Lead images from Rainbow's Sunset's Official Facebook page