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A not-so-teen movie |


A not-so-teen movie

WONDERBLOG - Ping Medina -

The movie Senior Year reminds us of all the fun (and stupid) things we did in school. It reminds you of the time when being giggly was such a joy and every little thing seemed so special. It reminds you how things seemed so suspiciously simple, only to have them blow up on your face.

Now you have to understand, this is a film by Jerrold Tarog. And when I say this is a film by Jerrold Tarog, it really is a film by Jerrold Tarog. The guy wrote, scored, edited, mixed and directed the entire thing. It’s like being the captain of the basketball team, coaching your teammates, cheering them on with pompoms, then giving out Gatorade during breaks. So let me enumerate how good a job he did in an otherwise pressure-cooker situation.

No Pressure For Direk

There is a big advantage for a filmmaker who scores his own films. Jerrold used to score for the likes of Brillante Mendoza and Jeffrey Jeturian, so it’s safe to say he’s been around the block. In Senior Year, he makes simple layered tracks to complement his scenes, and places the exact notes for certain emotions needed.

As an actor’s director, Jerrold’s desire for finding “real” people is already becoming a trademark for him. This is best illustrated in his feature-length debut, the bitingly humorous Confessional (2007), where the director himself plays the protagonist of the story.

For Senior Year, he decided to put together a cast (from a series of school auditions) who don’t have movie star looks. Now, if you’re able to make non-actors act, make them feel comfortable enough to do their own thing without a care for the camera poking at their faces, then you’ve already done a great job. Your audience naturally ends up falling in love with each character and empathizing with their their joys and struggles. Sometimes, you just want to hug some of the kids or give them a reassuring pat on the back.

The writing relies a lot on offbeat storytelling and everyday dialogue. What you get is a bunch of kids who talk like today’s real kids do, and none of those big life declarations that people end up quoting on Twitter. Although there are minor oversights in story development, the light treatment of the scenes just make you chuck it out the window.

But the strength of the writing relies on all the characters having an intense desire to seek out the truth. Absolutely no one is content with their lives. They’re all striving for meaning, struggling to fix some crumpled part of their lives. This probably reflects the director’s frustration with his own nation’s loss of identity; the disadvantages of being a bunch of scattered tribes all over the archipelago. The director sneaks in clever devices and dialogue from time to time, designed to symbolize and express just that.

However, I must say the strength of Jerold’s humorous storytelling relies on his witty editing. When you say “witty”, you’re usually referring to the writing. But in this case, the writing takes wing man position.

One of the invaluable skills of an editor is knowing how to pick out those precious genuine moments that actors throw at the camera. He places his shots excitedly, none of those stale over-the-shoulder or lingering reaction shots, and paces along the movie like a high school student running around the hallways.

What you get is a fearless ride on this emotional roller coaster—as the main narrator describes his high school life—which makes you ask, was I ever really that stupid and pathetic and tons of fun? Jerrold examines all of that bittersweet and awkward stuff with fresh goggles, as if looking back at his most heartbreaking moments.

New Teen On The Block

The cinematic voice of Jerrold Tarog is very clear. After making only three feature-length films, he was already commissioned to make his first big studio movie, as a part of the Shake Rattle & Roll trilogy last year. So I am pinning my hopes on this guy as someone who can cross borders and bring back good realism in today’s local cinema, whose mainstream sensibilities badly need the gumption and grit.

Although Senior Year is a teen movie, in reality, it tackles issues that plague adults in real life. Fear of not living up to expectations, regretful moments in the past, and that familiar voice that constantly nags at the back of your head, whether you’re 16 or 36—what’s going to happen next?

In the end, what comes out is a film that reminds us of all the idealistic hopes and boundless energy we had in our teens, and how the years have taught us to know better. This realization is one of the greatest heartbreaks of life, but you know what not-so-teen Jerrold Tarog has to say? It’s all good.

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Senior Year has been graded “A” by the Cinema Evaluation Board. It will start its theatrical run in twelve SM malls, so please check out the website for a cinema near you:

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