Dyamper begins awkwardly, with a weird interview with a farmer. A couple of leading questions has him talking about the Maharlika highway, the stuff that's transported on it (rice, vegetables and gold), and the progress that it's brought to Nueva Vizcaya. The farmer is then asked if he wants to be in a movie, a possibility that he laughs off. The movie then flashes text that explains the season in which farmers are left idle, waiting for the harvest. And then, finally, the movie gets to its real story. In muddy black and white, we are introduced to three figures on a mountain at night, idly talking about the dangers of what they're about to do.
The movie then cuts to the recent past. Tinoy (Alchris Galura) is found injured on the side of a road by Poknat (Timothy Castillo). The film keeps the reasons Tinoy was there a mystery for most of its runtime. Tinoy ends up becoming friends with Poknat, who turns out to be a dyamper, jumping on the backs of trucks on the highway and stealing rice. Tinoy joins his new friend's criminal enterprise, and the film mainly follows this small gang as they bum around, living off the spoils of their thievery.
There are only small snatches of plot scattered throughout this movie. It largely meanders through Tinoy's new life, which only occasionally involves doing anything of real consequence. He and his new friends get high, consume liquor, and generally just waste time. Sometimes, they jump on the back of a truck, but for much of the film's runtime, this doesn't actually lead to anything. There is also the matter of a young woman (Liza Diño-Seguerra) that Tinoy ends up feeling responsible for. But again, this doesn't lead to much for a good long time.
Most of the plot reveals itself in the back end, the film hurtling into a burst of sudden action as things suddenly get complicated for the characters. This all leads to a big reveal, but this stuff somehow feels less vital than the scenes of these guys just goofing around. The film is just better as a bizarre slacker comedy, finding strange humor in the rhythms of life in this place where one can simply begin anew. It almost doesn't matter from where Tinoy comes. The eventual reveal feels overlong and overwrought, straining the dramatic limits of an otherwise laid back film.
But the film's pleasures are substantial. Many of its sequences are mesmerizing, director Mes de Guzman able to turn a lack of incident into an asset. The movie establishes a very different wavelength, and transports the audience to a very different place. It is a new frontier, and these people are slipping through the cracks left in the wake of supposed progress. There is a sweetness to Alchris Galura that makes him perfect for this role, up until the point that things get kind of serious. Timothy Castillo is terrific as Poknat, the young actor handling the character's seemingly conflicting aspects with ease.
Dyamper doesn't really hold together as a single piece. The false start provides context that the movie doesn't really need, and the end ties things up a little too neatly. The film is great, however, when it meanders. It builds a very distinct rhythm that is strangely seductive, capturing the imagination even though there isn't actually anything happening. In these idle moments, the film presents an alluring picture of life on the fringes of progress, of an existence of endless escape, free from the consequences that life tends to bring. It is in these moments so mesmerizing that it's kind of frustrating when the movie gets back to the business of telling its story.