Title: 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten
Director: Petersen Vargas
Writer: Jaxon Paul Laxamana
Cast: Khalil Ramos (Felix), Ethan Salvador (Magnus), Jameson Blake (Maxim)
Genre: Drama, Coming of Age
Year of release: 2016
Brief rambling: I wrote this piece for my Film 100 class, which required me to write a review for a Cinema One Originals film. Thankfully, the UP Film Institute held a week’s worth of screenings for such films. Yay!
Set in the late 1990s, the film is quick to establish that the story dates a few years after the ill-fated Mount Pinatubo eruption. Moreover, it carefully explores the disaster’s aftermath and the plight of its victims. Aside from providing fresh insight on a significant, historical calamity, 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten also offers a narrative that is greatly relevant to our culture.
For one thing, the story brings to light a number of problematic mentalities and socially enforced stigma that are generally still being faced by our current generation. Some of which include, but are not limited to, colonial mentality, the stifling of cultural identity, and the blatant aversion towards issues considered as taboo. As an example, in the earlier portion of the movie, high school students are explicitly instructed to speak only in English; those who use their native tongue are punished and publicly embarrassed.
Additionally, and perhaps more relevantly, the story largely addresses the complexities of human moral compasses as well as the struggles of the youth as they come of age. The characters are dynamic and dimensional, occasionally fluctuating between opposite ends of traditional morals – there are no purely good guys and clearly defined villains. Themes such as sexual desire, sexuality, and violence are tackled through unorthodox approaches relative to most coming-of-age motion pictures.
Personally, I paid extra attention to the film’s setting as it primarily takes place in my provincial area, Pampanga. It was delightful to find very familiar places being displayed on the big screen and to listen to conversations expressed in Kapampangan. One aspect I did not like was the high school teacher’s prominent accent. There is a running stereotype that when Kapampangans speak in English, they add the ‘h’ sound to words that begin with ‘i’. The accuracy behind this generalization is debatable, but nonetheless, I found the accent unnecessary and distracting.
As a whole, the technical aspects of 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten are spot on and well-developed. I was impressed by the cinematography because the footage is cleanly edited and the usage of zoomed-in, wide angle and/or blurred shots is done carefully and deliberately. Every shot is done with intention. Similarly, the production design is equally remarkable. The featured locations, I think, hit the nail on the head, the costumes complement the projected vibes of the characters, and the number of distracting props is minimal. I particularly liked the film’s soundtrack. Other than being well-timed and well-integrated into the story, the chosen music collectively gives off a warm ‘90s feel and a strangely nostalgic atmosphere.
With regards to the acting, it was Ethan Salvador who left the most distinct impression on me. His portrayal as the older Snyder brother, Magnus, works well with Felix’s intentional awkwardness, making their friendship believable and charming. Honestly, I initially struggled with Felix’s character, played by Khalil Ramos, because I kept feeling oddly uncomfortable as I watched him act out scenes and deliver lines. Later on, I understood that Felix’s weird disposition is an integral part of the role. Although I think Khalil’s acting is fine, I would have liked to see a wider range of expression from him, especially during the quieter moments.
In one of his interviews, Petersen Vargas said that the message he hoped people would take away from the movie is that friendship is forever. I think this sentiment is most evidently delivered during the scene where Magnus sleeps over in Felix’s house. After that, admittedly, a handful of the latter scenes left me confused and bewildered. Some of them even made me squirm in my seat out of discomfort. However, in spite of the film’s unconventional methods and portrayals, the gravity of that pivotal scene manages to resonate until everything ties together in the ending. I guess, the tagline of 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten does deliver: you’ll never forget your first friend.
Highly, highly recommended film!
[ * Note: This film is a recipient of the Cinema One Originals 2016 Best Picture, Best Cinematography (Carlos Mauricio), and Best Supporting Actor (Jameson Blake) awards. ]