Ten years ago this week, the gay comedy Bromance: My Brother’s Romance hit theaters in the Philippines.
Did it offer a nuanced portrayal of queer life and move the conversation around representation forward in a positive direction? No, absolutely not.
But! Bromance: My Brother’s Romance was popular enough to becomes the second highest-grossing Pinoy film of 2013, so our curiosity got the best of us and we decided to check it out for ourselves.
From late director Wenn V. Deramas, the comedy—apparently based on a true story???—is about estranged twins, Brando and Brandy, who always fight and feel they have nothing in common. Well, aside from the beautiful Erika (Cristine Reyes), who Brando has a crush on and who is BFFs with his gay brother, Brandy.
But, one day, Brandy is hit by an ambulance and falls into a coma (this is a comedy, we promise!), so Brando does what any sensible identical twin would do: He impersonates his brother in an effort to pay his debts and keep his family business afloat…. and, sure, maybe also to see if he can get closer to Erika.
Model-turned-actor-turned-Filipino A-lister Zanjoe Marudo pulls The Parent Trap-style (shout out to Lindsay Lohan) double duty here as both Brando and Brandy, with the added wrinkle that he also plays Brandy as played by Brando. Confused yet?
Well, don’t be, because Bromance works overtime to make sure you see the siblings as very different people, mainly by making Brandy a walking, talking stereotype of femme gays. He’s loud and sassy, he’s an interior decorator, he has a fashionable (for 2013) asymmetrical haircut, he wears bright and bold colors, and he surrounds himself with similar gay. You get the picture.
Actually, Brandy’s portrayal speaks to the vibe of the entire film, which is to say it’s all very big and bold and over-the-top, with frenetic editing and ridiculous sound effects accentuating its broad moments of comedy. It’s basically a live-action cartoon. (To be fair, this over-the-top style is indicative of many Filipino comedies of the time, gay or straight.)
And we will say that, to its credit, while Bromance does traffic in plenty of stereotypes about Brandy and his gay male friends, it does treat them with respect. In a sense, that’s the entire point of the movie: The straight Brando never thought much of his brother, but in having to live in his shoes—as a gay man—he comes to realize how wrong he was.
For as wacky as the movie can get, it comes to a pretty sweet, emotional conclusion where the brothers apologize, and Brando finally gives his twin the respect he deserves.
Is it perfect? Far, far from it. But Bromance: My Brother’s Romance offers a fascinating glimpse into LGBTQ+ representation from another time, another place, showing how far we’ve come—and how far we still have to go—in global cinema.
For the curious, the film is streamable, in full, on YouTube in Tagalog with English subtitles, so check it out for yourself: