#Y (Gino Santos, 2014)
Official entry, New Breed Category, Cinemalaya X
Suicide, especially among teens is a very delicate subject matter for film. Handled carelessly, a film may give off a wrong vibe that it promotes or justifies suicide.
#Y (pronounced as hashtag Y), the second feature-length film by Gino Santos deals with the subject of suicide as one of the issues involving the upper middle class, or the generation "Y". In the film, we are readily offered the idea from the get-go that the lead character Miles (Elmo Magalona) is contemplating suicide, and through flashback we recollect his troubled, confused, and oftentimes ambivalent behavior. We never really get to fully understand Miles's psyche. Is he heartbroken? Does he hate his parents? If so, why? Does he long for social acceptance? Is he mentally unstable? The film offers vague answers. In a way, director Gino Santos may be telling us that we may never really fully comprehend the reason behind the prevalence of suicide among teenagers, much more among privileged teenagers, which is an alarming fact because what the hell are these kids really going through? And can we prevent it?
Herein lies my greatest concern for #Y: by consciously opting for a grim tone for the film, unprepared viewers may view the film as provocative, in the negative sense. Sure, the film has some witty one-liners, mostly from Miles's spirited best friend Janna (Coleen Garcia), and the montage of partying seems like a lot of fun, but the aura of depression permeates the film, which could be a projection of Miles's state of mind. But at the end, there is no reprieve. There is no hope. Is this what the film wishes to deliver as postscript, that the generation Y is fucked no matter what?
A Bret Easton Ellis vibe is palpable within Santos's psychedelic sequences and Jeff Stelton's assortment of characters, but unlike Ellis's conjured world, let's say in RULES OF ATTRACTION for example, not everyone in #Y is interesting to follow, or even empathize with. Miles's circle consists of Janna (Garcia), who is an openly promiscuous partygoer, Ping (Kit Thompson), a drug-crazed male chauvinist pig who has to get it on with other women just because his girlfriend isn't ready yet to lose her virginity, and Lia (Sophie Albert), the girlfriend in question, or as referred to by Janna as "Flying V", also the girl who despises that her daily clothing is thanks to Forever 21. If this limited array of characters is the representation of the generation Y then I feel sorry for said generation for either being accurately or poorly portrayed.
Miles says a lot through the use of voice over, and his thoughts are so damn difficult to follow, coupled with the film's lack of coherence in editing which makes for one restless roundabout of images, and voices. The film alienates more than it involves.
Coleen Garcia stands out from the bunch with her spot on portrayal of the rebel chick who lives for the moment. Elmo Magalona, having the burden to carry the weight of the movie feels amateur in the acting department given the complexity of his character. Chynna Ortaleza, who plays a helpline operator may have been a little too conscious with her character. As such the dialogue feels unreal.
And where has the parents of these troubled kids gone? Only Miles's parents are given screen time, and in forgettable moments, too. Is there no attempt to even surmise why the other kids are behaving badly? Thanks, but no thanks to Janna's father who appears in a brief voice over.
"#Y" could have been the film that defined the fast-paced lifestyle of today's youth. Instead, the message got lost in a stream of confusion which resulted into a similar experience with binge drinking- you think you'll enjoy it, but you wake up instead with a throbbing pain in your head and a vague recollection of last night.