Thursday, March 15, 2018

SINAG MANILA 2018: Review of TALE OF THE LOST BOYS: Serendipitous Soulmate

March 13, 2018

When the Sinag Manila Film Festival awards were announced last night, the big winner was this film by a director who mainly dealt with LGBT issues, Joselito Altarejos. It won Best Picture, Best Screenplay (by May de los Santos), Best Editing by Diego Marx Dobles), as well as the Box Office award. This acclaim made it the film to catch at this festival, a big part of which I missed because it coincided with previously set travel schedules.

A carefree Filipino buy-and-sell guy named Alex went to Taipei to escape some pressing responsibilities back home in Manila. One night, he met and befriended a local bartender named Jerry, a medical student by day, and who just so happened to be gay. The film explored their individual conflicts with their respective parents. 

Jerry felt trapped by his parents expectations for him to return to their aboriginal Atayal village to get married, and serve as a doctor and a tribal chief, like his father. However, Jerry could not simply come out to tell them that he was gay. Alex, on the other hand, had been living a bitter and angry existence his whole life after being abandoned by his parents, both of whom he thought of as dead since his childhood. 

Thankfully, there was no forced romance between Alex and Jerry -- only a deep friendship. Jerry's gayness was just incidental in this case, not really essential. Many pink films would seem to imply that a close friendship between men would eventually lead to a romantic or sexual connection, something that is more of fantasy than reality. Unlike previous Altarejos films, sex was not a main focus at all. There was only one sexual interlude which was not even really necessary, but maybe something his followers expect. 

Oliver Aquino, whom I last saw in Altarejos' previous film, the Cinemalaya 2014 Best Picture "Kasal," played very well as the straight laidback dude Alex with a chronic burning chip on his shoulder that he needed to confront. However, it was Taiwanese actor Ta Su (known on IMDB as Soda Voyu) who made a stronger impression as Jerry, the young tribesman exposed to modern living -- now in a conflict between what is expected of him and what he wants his life to be. 

I had only written about one of director Joselito Altarejos past films and that was "Kasal" -- which won Best Picture at the Cinemalaya 2014. In his new film, already also a Best Picture winner, Altarejos mainly depended on his actors' natural performances and Marya de los Santos' sensitively-written script to develop his characters' personal journeys. Those exchanges of conversation, though lengthy, never became boring. The actors' sincere portrayals and warm rapport overrode the challenge of actors speaking in English instead of their mother tongue. That things between Alex and Jerry were kept platonic made the deeper message of this film remarkably universal.  7/10. 

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