SENIOR YEAR (Jerrold Tarog)
I was quite surprised with SENIOR YEAR. I thought Jerrold Tarog would conclude his CAMERA trilogy already, but then again even Lars Von Trier hasn't completed his America trilogy, and he's making another set of similarly-themed films.
Nevertheless, SENIOR YEAR is an impressive, nostalgic (yes I can relate to about 80% of what happened in the film) and thought-provoking achievement in telling the ups and downs of being a high school senior. While one cannot escape comparing SENIOR YEAR to Auraeus Soilito's PISAY, Tarog's take on high school life has a more universal approach (because PISAY is more political, and let's face it not all of us graduated in Philippine Science High School).
Tarog said part of his influence in making SENIOR YEAR are John Hughes movies, and rightly so because if you'll take notes from a high school film, it better be John Hughes. Like Hughes, Tarog's storytelling is light, humorous, and hopeful in the end.
While SENIOR YEAR chronicles the hardest year in high school life as if with firsthand knowledge (it helps that Tarog is a young filmmaker who can relate to his subject matter), it also attempts to pay attention to the educators as human beings. LJ Moreno and Che Ramos both have compelling sub-stories told in the film.
While Tarog also discusses the infatuation stage usually associated with secondary education level, the characters involved (who are real senior students, by the way in the school where the film was shot) and the scenes which they are in does not appear cheesy nor cliched. I don't know about you, but I'm still in my early twenties, and have a low tolerance for blood-curling cheesy dialogue/moments, so I can honestly say I felt not disgust or awkwardness during said scenes in SENIOR YEAR but authenticity instead. It's like my high school classmates are immortalized on screen.
Capitalizing on familiar high school characters, like the bookworm, the girl/guy in love with her/his best friend, the fashionista, the athlete, the bully, etc. etc. and making them human by avoiding too much unnecessary characterization, SENIOR YEAR becomes a monumental and generational film, the same way that Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK will remain as Hollywood's blueprint for our current generation.
In fact, SENIOR YEAR managed to surprise me, with the unexpected turn of events in the ending, and as usual, there's Tarog good command of satire, whether visual, or lingual.
And by the way, Ramon Bautista as the gym teacher is absurdly hilarious.
I just didn't quite relate to the part where the characters are all grown up, during the reunion. I wish there were some dynamism to those sequences, for I felt that the people involved do not mean what they say. The facial expressions do not match the words. Only RJ Ledesma as the grown up bookworm guy remains in character, and in similarity to his younger version.
Having said that, such minor flaws will not make you enjoy SENIOR YEAR less.