It is a cause for cheer when a filmmaker tries to elevate the very common genre of the melodrama into a rich and intellectually rewarding film experience, such as director Ronaldo Bertubin has done with Last Viewing (Davis Entertainment Productions). Bertubin has seen in the material an opportunity to put substance to what has often been denigrated as the unthinking man's entertainment, and to a considerable degree, his attempt has been a success. Last Viewing is both a tearjerker and meaningful as a depiction of people in crisis. Laura (Janice de Belen) has been promoted supervisor at a memorial home crematorium. She is also single mother to Heidi (Maro Panganiban), her five year old autistic daughter. Laura has the means to attend to the less mundane demands of life, examine what may have been an unexamined life. In all these, Bertubin explores the emotional and psychological condition of a woman who makes a living working with dead people and their grieving families. Naturally visible here are the many symbols not only of death but also of life to serve as some kind of counterpoint. Sometimes, they blend with each other, and at other times they are contradicting. From the solemnity of her father's funeral to the stillness of the crematorium, the affirmation of death could hardly be ignored. The most eloquent symbol here of life is the process of acceptance personified by Laura's brother Arnel (Sherwin Ordonez) who cared for their bedridden father until his death. His biggest dream is to work in the Middle East to start a new life on his own.
Life may indeed be short but art endures. It is the one thing in this world which is eternal. Philosophical musings like these are not standard soap opera fare and may alienate a lot of ordinary moviegoers, even the more cerebral ones who cannot accept the conventions of the soap opera genre. Woven unobtrusively into the plot, however, they add texture to enrich the drama. In the last scene, the imagery and symbolisms of life and death abound. Laura finds her missing daughter after four long years lying lifeless inside the crematorium. True enough, this reunion scene is highly emotional. This is the striking part of the movie, Laura staring intently as she prepares her daughter's remains for cremation. It's as though she can see herself in Heidi's lifeless body. Last Viewing is clearly a Janice de Belen vehicle. The actress is in almost every frame of the movie exhibiting gradations of emotions. While Sherwin Ordonez, never known for great moments in acting have his moments here. The very idea that he is not overshadowed by his co-star speaks well of his talent. The attempts to raise the level of the melodrama and present insights on life and death provide Last Viewing its greatest strength and wide appeal. How strangely ironic that a film dealing with death could have so much life.
Directed By: Ronaldo Bertubin
Screenplay By: Romualdo Avellanosa
Director Of Photography: Gary Gardoce And Alex Montemayor
Music By: Pepe Manikan
Film Editor: Soon Li Mi
Production Design By: Antonio Chiong
Produced By: Davis Entertainment Productions
Release Date: May 12, 2009
Release Date: May 12, 2009