Coming-of-age films are interesting. That’s because they’re about changes—good and/or bad. It’s great to see a caterpillar transform into a butterfly; an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.
But it’s devastating to see the rise and fall of the Roman Empire; depressing to see popular leaders turn into dictators.
Making others feel the joy of creation and the pain of destruction—albeit vicariously—offers thrills like no other.
This is what makes Cinema One Original’s 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten stand out. The movie is set in the late 1990s in Pampanga a decade after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
The gay-themed film is about high school achiever Felix (Khalil Ramos), whose boring life bursts with color when Fil-Am brothers Magnus and Maxim Snyder (Ethan Salvador and Jameson Blake, respectively) arrive in Angeles City.
The brothers ask Felix’s help in school assignments, until friendship blossoms between Felix and Magnus.
Khalil has that wide-eyed, innocent look of a barrio boy whose world revolves around school and home. But his eyes—at times shown in extreme close up—don’t mirror the intelligence his role as the class’ all-time topnotcher does.
This vacant look serves him well in scenes where Felix experiences "worldly" things for the first time. But they fail to give justice to his character when his exposure to sexually provocative things still leaves him wide-eyed and wanting in emotion.
Khalil acquits himself well later, though in a breakdown scene where he releases pent-up emotions the way a dam lets go of everything it has held back for years. For a minute there, you think Felix would lose control and self destruct. But he walks away, dignity intact.
In doing so, he gets the viewers’ respect, not just for himself, but others of his kind – the ones who long to escape from the dictates of their DNA.
You end up feeling for Felix, the way you end up feeling partly-pained, partly-awed at the lahar landscape the fills the screen. Here’s someone who rises above his circumstances, no matter what the odds—poverty, superstition, the evil that men do.
And yet, he’s human and flawed like us. He’s no hero. He breaks school policies, weeps and rages when wronged.
The film’s supporting characters are even more imperfect, crooked even. Some help move the story along. Others—like this cougar teacher—don’t. Her actions are irrelevant to the plot.
Despite this, 2 Cool has the potential to affect viewers with its versions of unconditional love, images of want, the American Dream, and the state of education in the province.
We’re left to make our own conclusions, because the film ends with that guess-what-happens-next feeling. The clues are in the actors’ body language, and the unfolding landscape which sets the all-important mood.
If this means a sequel is forthcoming, go for it. If not, the closing credits could have started rolling a few scenes before film’s hanging ending.
Go see the film, and feel the characters’ roller coaster of emotions. Besides, the hanging ending will make you think that hope springs eternal, after all.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.