My first movie date for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival was my mom so picking the LGBT family drama Rainbow’s Sunset came almost naturally. I watched the trailer for this movie and it had an interesting plot and a powerhouse cast that set the tone for me going into the cinema. However, its biggest strength proved to be its greatest weakness because this film did not live up to expectations, and it was quite disappointing, to say the least.
Synopsis: Retired politician Ramon Estrella (Eddie Garcia) decides to move in with his “best friend” Fredo (Tony Mabesa) after the latter is diagnosed with a terminal illness, much to the shock of his children who only discover that their father has been having a secret relationship with his kumpare for decades. As the family matriarch Sylvia (Gloria Romero) struggles with her own feelings about the matter, their children Eman (Tirso Cruz III), Georgina (Aiko Melendez) and Marife (Sunshine Dizon) team up to keep their dad from becoming the fodder of gossips in their small town and the rest of the country as rumors spread about the former senator being gay.
Acclaimed director Joel Lamangan definitely envisioned something big when he took on Rainbow’s Sunset. It was quite obvious from the set up that the movie had plenty to say about the acceptance of LGBT in society and using an elderly couple to underscore that true love comes in many forms certainly caught the attention of many. Enlisting a cast of acting veterans also guarantees that they will do justice to their complicated roles and relationships.
The problem with the movie is that it should have had simple message — let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. Well, I suppose that this was supposed to be the core message of the film because of how each self righteous member of the Estrella family were so quick to judge their father and their ninong when in fact, they all had skeletons in their closets that were far worse than their father’s gender preference. Unfortunately, while the conflicts for each Estrella sibling was introduced, it was only Eman’s story that was explored fully. What happened to Georgina’s husband’s business dealings? Was there no hope for Fe and her new relationship? I mean, when you watch the movie, you have to ask.
The film also shifted from flashbacks to the beginning of Ramon and Fredo’s relationship and their current status, and the role that Sylvia played in their uncanny love triangle. Unfortunately, the story was not able to fully establish any strength in the past of the present because the storytelling seemed fragmented, as if holding back a crucial part of the tale by only showing snippets of Ramon and Fredo’s history. When the elders talk about meeting when they were younger, as well as their common stories from the time their complicated relationships started, it also seemed forced, as if the script was trying to simply fill in the blanks with anecdotes delivered by the three veteran actors.
At times, the script also seemed too preachy, overly explaining the stigma of being LGBT and how one’s position in society is affected by “coming out”, no matter what age. There was an attempt to introduce this aspect to the younger Estrellas with Eman’s eldest daughter, but like with the rest of the conflict, it was also abandoned and left by the wayside.
I think Rainbow’s Sunset became confused about its direction when it blended the family drama with LGBT advocacy. I think it felt obligated to deliver the dramatics about the family situation by focusing on the children’s problems when it should have devoted its attention to the main story and merely touched on the subplots.
Also, I was wondering why despite explaining how much people should accept members of the LGBT community at this day and age, even delving into the difference between acceptance and condescension, at one point, the film failed to explain how Ramon can love both a woman and a man at the same time, losing an excellent opportunity to educate about bisexuality. The conflict between the children also seemed to have been solved too easily, as well as the marital problems between the eldest son and his wife.
I did appreciate the quality of the acting in this piece which truly saved the movie. I loved the fact that the children always came to their mom for advice whenever they felt confused and desperate, and how, no matter how old one got, the film showcased how important a mother’s role is to a household, and the strength it took to become a woman that everybody depended upon. I also appreciated the natural bond that Romero, Garcia and Mabesa were able to project on screen. It was beautiful to watch, and heartbreaking too at the same time, given their story.
Unfortunately, as much as the main cast pulled their weight, the secondary cast was an epic fail. The younger versions of the main characters were a disappointment so the development of Ramon and Fredo’s relationship looked quite mechanical and cheesy because of the bad acting. It seemed like one big joke when it should have been pivotal moments in the film.
I will spare Max Collins from my wrath because she did quite a good job on her role as the young Sylvia. The grandchildren and extended family members were the very definition of wooden acting, I was afraid that they were going to be chopped off to become kindling for a fire if they continued any further.
All in all, Rainbow’s Sunset had a lofty goal and the tools to achieve it. However, it tried to bite of more than it can chew by opening doors that it could not close by the movie’s end. As a result, the film felt like scattered pieces of a puzzle that never quite became whole. It felt incomplete and audiences feel like they have been cheated out of something amazing by the time they leave the cinema. I get it. I appreciate the message, but the execution left a lot to be desired.