Sunday, August 20, 2017

Review of BAR BOYS: Learning about Law and Life

August 20, 2017



For many non-lawyers, the process of educating a lawyer is a hallowed mystery. With the quality of various lawyers we read about in the daily newspapers or observe in action on televised trials and investigations, we wonder:  How is someone who is expected to uphold the laws and protect human rights molded into being? How can we be assured that they will always remain true to the nobility of their calling? 

"Bar Boys" follows a group of friends who pass the entrance exam of a prestigious (but unnamed) law school. Torran Garcia (Rocco Nacino) is a cool and (over-)confident student, possessing a sharp tongue and photographic memory. Chris Carlson (Enzo Pineda) is a rich Amboy with a distant yet demanding father, who was also a lawyer. Erik Vicencio (Carlo Aquino) is a son of a elderly security guard whose biggest dream is for his son to become a lawyer, whatever it takes. 

Because of the multiple foci in its story, writer-director Kip Oebanda developed the story of the boys in an series of episodes, either together in school; or individually in their own homes. These episodes were mostly told with a naughty sense of humor, but some were very serious with pretty heavy dramatic situations. 

The school episodes told about the terrifying or hilarious idiosyncrasies of various professors they encounter. Two of them stood out. Atty. Victor Cruz (Sebastian Castro) is a not-so-discreet young gay professor who wore a shirt with banana designs on day one, but dead serious with his grades. Atty. Hernandez (Odette Khan) is an intimidating senior professor with glowering eyes who won't accept anything less than the absolute precise answer. This may count as one of the best roles I've seen Ms. Khan do in her whole career.

Of the three, it was Torran who joined a frat, so we also got a glimpse into that controversial topic. The story took a dark turn when Torran had a run-in with their brutal Lord Master (Vance Larena) during a sadistic hazing ceremony. I had an idea what may have happened, but I felt the outcome of this subplot was not shown or told too clearly. No positives of joining frats were shown to balance out the negatives.


Torran is part of a very big middle-class family led by his very loud and funny mother, and of course, nobody plays quirky better than Mailes Kanapi. How his family welcomed Torran when he came home after learning his bar result is one of my favorite scenes. In another scene, Torran got picked up by the beautiful law student Alice (Hazel Faith dela Cruz) he was trying to pick up at the frat party. It was too bad that that one-night-stand sequence would be the only appearance of dela Cruz for the whole film. 

A-student Chris is carrying on a relationship with an English-challenged direct salesgirl Rachel (another vivacious turn by Anna Luna after "Requited" and "Paglipay") for five long years, a matter which he kept secret from his father Atty. Maurice Carlson (Pontri Bernardo). Erik may come from a poor family, but he has a close, loving, supportive relationship with his parents Renato (Rener Concepcion) and Linda (Irene Celebre). Their father-son relationship was a most touching aspect of the story.

They had a fourth guy in their DOTA-playing gang, Josh Zuniga (played by Kean Cipriano) who would rather be a model/actor than be a lawyer. Despite sharing one fourth of the poster, Cipriano's scenes were very minimal compared to the other three, and he was there mainly for comic relief with his immature shenanigans.

If you want to study in law school, you should watch this first before you apply. Will you be ready to photocopy thick tomes for required readings, and actually commit them to memory? Will you be ready to handle spontaneous recitation sessions right on the first day of class? Will you be ready to argue with the answers of your classmates and rate their performance? Will you be ready to sacrifice all your interpersonal relationships at least until you graduate and pass the bar? This film tells you what to expect, and warns you ahead of time. 

You may wish that instead of hypothetical cases, they would debate on current issues of national interest about lawyers, but things did not go that way. The treatment of its interesting topic may have been fun, light-hearted and optimistic, however I thought the true essence of law school is captured with respect and sincerity. 7/10. 


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