THIS year, four films starring four problematic young men made full impact on us with their valid and disturbing messages. They are all the opposites of escapist movies that make you feel good as what they really do is make us think and agitate us. They can also all be nominated as best picture and the leads can also all be nominated as best actors. These are the four films listed according to how much we like them.
“EDWARD” - Directed by Thop Nazareno, this is a coming of age story set in an overcrowded public hospital. Alternately humorous and dramatic, it’s also a rite of passage for the titular hero who is taking care of sick father. It starts with him as a jolly young fellow who treats the hospital like a playground. He experiences first love, death and in the end, as his story arcs, we see him breaking down in a moment of utter hopelessness and desolation. The film is also a valid expose on our deplorable public health services that further dehumanizes its patients.
KALEL, 15 - Written and directed by Jun Lana, this is the harrowing story of a 15-year old and his descent into hell after he is diagnosed to be HIV positive. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent how things went wrong. He is the illegitimate son of a slutty carinderia owner and their parish priest. He has an older sister sired by another father, also a slut like their mom. He takes to social media to get validation by posting his sexy photos. He has a girlfriend who’s very aggressive in wanting to have sex him but he resists her advances. Things become more bleak and desperate for him as everyone leaves him, including his friends, leading into utter hopelessness with him spitting on a religious image. This is also a cautionary tale of the alarming high incidence of HIV among young people in our country.
METAMORPHOSIS - Directed by Jose E. Tiglao, the film presents the plight of an intersex or hermaphrodite, a person born with both the male and female genitals. The story unfolds without any sensationalism but is treated with fair restraint. The lead character is named Adam, who turns out to be a combination of Adam and Eve, and how he eventually comes to terms in accepting his condition and, later own, his own chosen identity. This is the first serious local attempt to delve into this condition and presents the unique dilemma of a person with both sex organs who does not fully understand what’s going on with their bodies. The example of a butterfly coming out of its cocoon is used to symbolize what Adam goes through.
JOHN DENVER TRENDING - Written and directed by Arden Rod Condez, this is a cautionary tale about the dangers of cyberbullying in this day and age of pervasive social media. Set in a small town in Antique, John Denver, a 14-year old high school student, is accused of stealing a classmate’s Ipad and then beating him up. The incident is recorded on a cellphone and the footage becomes viral. The story travels fast and John Denver is ostracized by all. It becomes a veritable witchhunt, but he remains sympathetic throughout the film which ends tragically.
As for the actors, for us, it’s a toss between Elijah Canlas as Khalel and Louise Abuel as Edward. Elijah is consistently good all throughout the movie, giving a finely nuanced performance even in scenes that provide comic relief, like when his mom, Jaclyn Jose, asked him and his sister, Elora Espano, to have a walwalan or drinking binge with her and they get to reveal some dirty secrets about each other. Elijah is also good doing supporting roles as the best friend in “Edward” and as a young drug pusher pretending to be a balut vendor in “Babae at Baril”.
Louise has a more demanding story arc in “Edward”. He starts as a jolly teener who gets broken hearted after his first love ends in tragedy and is so devastated upon learning his dad has terminal illness and has to be brought back home to their province.
Then we like Gold Aceron as Adam in “Metamorphosis”. He perfectly captures the inner turmoil, psychological confusion and the difficult journey to liberation and self-acceptance of the lead character.
Jansen Magpusao gives a heartfelt portrayal of a helpless boy victimized by social media in “John Denver Trending” but compared to the three other actors mentioned above who go through an entire range of emotions and situations, his is a one-note performance. He is just required to look distraught and troubled all throughout the film. He’s effective, all right, but what the role required from him is quite simple compared to the more complex interpretations that was asked from the three other actors to deliver.