You need to be a very special character to work in a funeral home or mortuary. Someone who is comfortable with blood, bodily fluids and being surrounded by cadavers. It could be seen as a perfect job if you’re socially awkward or uncomfortable surrounded by people! Unsurprisingly, it has proved to be a popular location in which to set horror films. In Ode to Nothing, the new film from Dwein Baltazar, she focuses on the trials and tribulations of a lonely middle-aged woman.
Sonya (Marietta Subong) has largely given up on life. Living with her father (Joonee Gamboa), she quietly struggles to keep the family funeral home afloat whilst a loan shark (Dido dela Paz) with an eye on their land circles. Sonya has given up on her hopes and dreams and is waiting for the inevitable when the body of an old woman arrives at the parlour. Their luck suddenly turns and she forms a bond with the elderly corpse.
Ode to Nothing is a quiet, thoughtful and gently comedic take on loneliness, poverty, superstition and isolation. There’s something almost inescapable about Sonya’s lot in life. Fated to rot in the decaying family business. Baltazar’s almost poetic film is encapsulated in Neil Daza’s wonderful framing, which accentuates her aloneness. She’s just a speck of dust in an infinite universe but when the mysterious Jane Doe appears, Sonya’s suddenly seen. Ode to Nothing is a poignant, enthralling and brooding drama.
Ode to Nothing screens again at Fantasia Festival 2019 on 22 July.