Film Review: 100

BOTTOM LINE: Death has no dominion in this sensitive portrait of a woman's last days.

Pusan International FIlm Festival
New Currents

In "100," a more down-to-earth version of "The Bucket List," yellow post-it notes become an effective motif to encapsulate a woman's coming to terms with death. Thoughtfully scripted and performed with a delicate balance of gravity and humor, the dignified image of women represented by director Chris Martinez here is exceptional for a Philippine melodrama with mainstream aspirations.

A change of scene from gritty Philippine festival films set in slums, "100" is low budget but slickly produced with a yuppie setting; its themes of family, friendship and memento mori can connect with audiences anywhere. With a cast unknown abroad, though, international exposure is tricky.

Joyce (Mylene Dizon) is a single woman seemingly at the apex of her career. In the final stages of cancer, she covers her wall with post-its of must-dos and wanna-dos in her remaining days. The yellow notes serve as powerful visual emotional pointers to bittersweet experiences.

The different sides of Joyce's character are well delineated. In practical matters, she is unflappable: Choosing her own coffin, she even makes a PowerPoint for her own wake with the matter-of-fact efficiency of a CEO. In affairs of the heart, nuanced gestures reveal her more human side, like when she keeps taking out then putting back post-its of "Tell Mommy" and "Tell Emil" (the old flame for whom she still carries a torch).

Martinez carefully rations the sad or sentimental moments, focusing more on simple pleasures Joyce pursues, with flashes of black humor. There is hardly a false note in the depiction of her bonding with soul sister Ruby (Eugene Domingo), or the responses of Joyce's mother, which move from grief to refusal to give up to stoic acceptance. The denouement explains why Emil kept resisting her advances, and this twist is a legitimate cue for hankies.

The tempo follows the dramatic arc closely, with brisk editing in the first half mirroring Joyce's impatience to savor every moment, and unwinds to a more relaxed pace as her body weakens but her soul attains peace.

Cast: Mylene Dizon, Eugene Domingo, Tessie Tomas, Ryan Eigenmann, Cecil Paz.
Director-screenwriter: Chris Martinez.
Executive producers: Chris Martinez, Marlon Rivera.
Director of photography: Larry Manda.
Production designer: Aby Jamnague-Rivera.
Music: Ricci Chan.
Editor: Ike Veneracion.
Sales agent: Unico Entertainment.
No rating, 117 minutes.
production: Cinemalaya presents a Martinez Riviera Films production in association with Straight Shooters Media.