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Mar 3, 2011
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You never fail to hear this line from one of your friends: “I wish we were back in high school.”[firstpara]
It’s the obligatory phrase that haunts twenty-something yuppies who'd rather go back to having pimple problems than solve what they call quarter-life crisis.

But would you really want to go back to high school? Once is enough for everyone, don't you think? And besides, sooner or later, you'll realize life is actually just like high school.

Welcome to Director Jerrold Tarog’s film Senior Year (a sequel to the short film Faculty). It premiered last night, March 2, ushering in the graduation season. 

The film revolves around the lives of 10 senior students of St. Fredericks Academy as they approach graduation. In the spirit of John Hughes (The Breakfast Club) and Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) we are treated to a quirky cast of characters dealing with...high school.

There's Solenn (Nikita Conwi), the pop kid everybody loves to hate; Mitch (Celina Penaflorida) and Chito (Eric Marquez) the outsiders who love nothing better than observe the politics happening within the four corners of their school; Briggs (Daniel Lumain) the school heartbreaker; Carlo (Daniel Medrana) the token gay kid, and of course, Henry (Aaron Balana) the school nerd and valedictorian.

None of the students here are professional actors, which leads to an either or scenario. Either their amateur acting fail to lift some scenes from Pretentious, or it is their performance, reeking with raw honesty that makes some scenes seem so charming and authentic and real. There is a raw quality about these fine adolescent actors that make the movie honest and hit closer to the heart.

Special mention must be given to the actress who played Mitch; her ability to appear vulnerable and strong on camera is highly commendable. Ramon Bautista’s small role as the P.E. teacher can be summed up in one word: hilarious.

Che Ramos shines as teacher Joan. She played the character to the teeth that images of inspiring teachers and characters from a Lualhati Bautista novel floated back in to memory. Her acting here is in stark contrast from her previous performance in Mangatyanan, also by Tarrog. Where then she gave a good bump-inducing heavy-handed performance, in Senior Year, such warmth shines through her acting.

The technical elements present in the film cater to today’s younger generation. Its pace, dictated by frenetic editing, is in tune with a young person's perspective.  

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Johnoy Danao's music hits the sweet spot. His amazing guitar skills and creative penchant for lyrics that are true are refreshing. Many say that he is the Jack Johnson of our country, a comparison we do not know how he'll take but we sure gave it as a compliment.

The story is told in an all too idyllic pace. The tone was rustic and charming, which is great for a high school movie. Where most of its Hollywood counterparts would go for gloss and shine, Tarog gunned for simple and heartwarming.

The movie plays out just as one would actually remember high school life: in small scenarios and searing snippets. In scenes like high school intrams or episodes of when a huge piece of shit becomes a spectacle in many a boy’s bathroom; in love letters and bullying; in crushes and heartbreaks.

One particularly impressive quality of this Tarrog film is how he did away with redemption; an obvious throw back to Woody Allen, who is one of his influences in filmmaking. The valedictorian doesn’t become a doctor; he becomes a call center manager. Friend’s lose touch and families are broken.

The only weakness here lies in the multiple perspectives of its huge cast. Character development could have been optimized, but this is but a minor detail. The film still provides the entertainment worthy of a National release in cinemas.

Senior Year is by far better than anything that was released in last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. People should support movies such as this. Go see it when it opens. Take your younger brothers and sisters and even take your parents.

Last night, after seeing the film we, the FHM staff who went to see the movie, found ourselves conversing over a few bottles of beer, musing about our high school lives. There was no mention of missing those days. Though we all agreed our problems back then are now all trivial, none of us said we wanted to go back. If anything, nostalgia was coursing through our veins and we couldn’t ask for anything more.  

Senior Year opens on March 9 at all SM Cinemas. Students and teachers get a discount, as tribute to the students and teachers who've inspired the movie. Please present your official IDs and you only need to pay P100 flat to see the movie. Yay!

WORDS BY: ANTON D. UMALI

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