Magkakabaung (The Coffin Maker) is a portrait of a hardworking single parent named Randy (Allen Dizon) who works as a coffin maker in the province of Sto. Tomas, Pampanga. He lives on the fringes of a muddy river with his daughter Angeline (Felixia Crysten Dizon, real-life child of Dizon), an eight year old child who stopped going to school because of her physical frailty.
The film opens with Randy and his co-workers talking about love and life in general. Meanwhile, Angeline is to be seen lying down inside a coffin in her father’s workplace. She fits perfectly inside, with enough space as a breather. She’s not yet dead, has no fascination with death, whatsoever. She just tries it on out of boredom, or curiosity, perhaps. This follows the trajectory of the film as his father deals with the death of Angeline over allergies brought about by wrong medication.
The film brings light as to how Randy stumbles to find money to claim his daughter’s body in the hospital, how a businessman (played by Emilio Garcia) sees this as an opportunity to turn the corpse into a commodity, and how Mabel (played by Gladys Reyes), Angeline’s mother who abandoned them, tries to redeem herself by having someone pay for her guilty conscience.
Director Jason Paul Laxamana seem to like details and irony. The characters stay in the moment. Laxamana allow Randy to speak for himself— or not. Allen Dizon plays him without inflection, giving us no instructions about what our opinion should be. It is a brave performance of a sad, repenting man who has a big heart for his child, willing to give everything despite his empty pockets.
Also, the existence of Randy’s guilt used as a device to introduce more characters, who are entertaining as themselves and don’t really further the plot, added layer to the story. It shows that no matter if it feels like you are bearing the weight of the world, other people are just busy with their own loads as well. Really an intricate detail that helped the film.
Overall, Magkakabaung is the kind of film that paints an overly dramatic plot with its synopsis. While it has all the reasons to tread the melodramatic path, it resists it. And that’s what makes it one of this year’s must see films.
Magkakabaung is a part of Metro Manila Film Festival New Wave which ran in Glorietta and SM Megamall from Dec. 17-24.