Lots of people managed to see Senedy Que’s “personal film” Dose (12) late last year during its first theatrical screening, like McVie, Tony, and The Bakla Reviewer. (Migs blogged about it last year but he didn’t get to see it.) I unfortunately was not able to catch it then. So when The Bakla Reviewer, Tony, and Migs spread the word that Dose would be having another run, I grabbed the chance to see this controversial film at Robinsons Galleria early this month.
The film tells the story of a gardener named Danny (played by Yul Servo) and Edy, a 12-year-old kid (played by Fritz Arvhie Chavez) who tends to display effeminate qualities. Because of his gay tendencies, Edy was “exiled” from his family in the province to live with his aunt in the city who employs Danny. Because of their lonely situation, Edy and Danny, whom Edy calls Yaku (“kuya” backwards), quickly became friends. Unfortunately, this friendly relationship crossed certain lines. Emilio Garcia portrays the older Edy who grew up to become a filmmaker and was seeking closure from his bond with Yaku.
I found that the movie is not really disturbing, but it is extremely uncomfortable to watch. Pedophilia is such a taboo subject in many cultures, including the Philippines, that having a film that seemingly glorifies it would send moralists into conniptions. To be fair, I wouldn’t say that the relationship portrayed was really pedophilic since Danny seemed to be straight in all respects and only gave in to Edy’s advances. The bond between the two might be said to be more pederastic rather than pedophilic since Danny acted as a surrogate big brother and father to Edy. Moreover, if you were to view the film itself objectively (ignoring the “love knows no age” publicity angle and all the superlatives in one of the trailers), I didn’t think it gave any moral judgment at all on whether the bond between Edy and Danny was right or wrong—the viewer is the one left to decide for himself.
That said, the movie is an excellent piece of filmmaking. The story and plot is well-executed and thought-provoking while the acting is superb. Yul Servo fit his role to a tee (now I can see why he often gets nominated for Best Actor/Supporting Actor and winning some of them). Fritz Chavez provides a nice opposite to Yul Servo and he holds his own beautifully. Emilio Garcia, while being relegated to just the first few and the last several scenes, manages to bring his own charisma to the table. Irma Adlawan, who plays Edy’s aunt, was also a real delight to watch. In addition, I agree with many others that it’s refreshing to see a gay-themed film that has little poverty and all the other clichés of the Filipino gay indie genre. I also liked how I was led twice to believe something in the movie but they turned out to be little plot twists.
There were some things I didn’t like, however. For one, were the cum shots really necessary? The movie excelled in subtlety so these little “treats” seemed like a sell-out. Ditto with the extended down-and-up footage of Yul Servo’s body. Also, the movie left me some unanswered questions like why was Danny gone abruptly?
I guess comparisons will inevitably be made between this film and two other coming-of age movies: Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros and Ang Lihim ni Antonio. Those two earlier flicks are gems in their own right, but Dose manages to dig even deeper into the genre and forge new paths, though it had to take a controversial angle to do that.
Much has been said about how Senedy Que says Dose is a “personal film.” Given that the older Edy was a filmmaker, I guess the film is likely semi-autobiographical though how much literary license was taken is a matter of speculation.
Kai and CC both managed to watch Dose during the second screening as well and these two have taken opposite stands. Kai likes the execution but finds the “message” repugnant while CC is mostly all praises. Me, I think it is a film worth watching in the theaters even if you might squirm in your seat while seeing it.
One last thing, I have never seen any of those whimsical campy old films like Temptation Island, so it was a real delight to see clips from those films interspersed within Dose. Now I’m quite curious to see them.