Monday, April 18, 2011

Senior Year (2010)

I feel compelled to write about this film because it is nearing the end of its run at Ayala Cinemas (Glorietta and Trinoma). Without giving too much away, I want to make you curious enough to catch it today or tomorrow. [Update: run extended to April 20.]

Jerrold Tarog's Cinemalaya 2009 film Mangatyanan is my favorite Filipino film, which is why I had such high expectations for his latest effort, Senior Year. The film tells the story of fourth year high school students in the last few months before their graduation. At St. Frederick's, a school in Southern Metro Manila, they learn about relationships, deal with each other's differences, think about the future, and get to know themselves more in the process.

There are several characters in the story, but Tarog successfully gives each one a voice despite their number. It is a complex arrangement, and there are some shots that are probably in-jokes, but everything appears to work--a delicate balancing act. The timing can be confusing at first, but in the end, it is logical to assume that the high school scenes are set in 2010. The film's biggest flaw is an aesthetic one: the use of effects that posterize certain shots as the intramurals. This only serves to distract. But if the intention was to look juvenile, then it has served the purpose well. Other than this, everything works well. The young cast has unknowns who appear very sincere and suit their roles well. The older set has familiar names, but they do not steal the show from the real stars of the movie.

For anyone my age, that is, a decade out of high school, Senior Year will remind you of that awkward but fun period of your life. The beginning of the film draws a good deal of laughter. We've all been there before. And the learnings ring true. What seemed so important when you were a teen appear so trivial in hindsight. These what ifs matter little now. But nostalgia has its uses. And if it will give you a good time at the cinema, then that is more than enough.

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