In Focus: 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten

Directed by Petersen Vargas (Sakaling Hindi Makarating) and penned by Jason Paul Laxamana (Mercury Is Mine), 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten emerged as the big winner in last year’s Cinema One Originals. So when it was scheduled for wide release, I made sure to catch it in cinemas.

Set in Pampanga in the late ‘90s, the film follows Felix (Khalil Ramos), an overachieving high school student, as he gets acquainted with the Snyder brothers – Magnus (Ethan Salvador) and Maxim (Jameson Blake). Good-looking, twang-tongued, and obviously well-off, the brothers fascinate everyone in their new school, including the reclusive Felix. Once Felix agrees to help Magnus with his geometry, his life gets more and more entangled with theirs.

Felix is an interesting, multifaceted character with various layers to him, and the film does a great job exploring his psyche. While overtly silent and reserved, his narrations reflect an inherent hunger for life. The Snyders, as spoiled and self-absorbed as they are, facilitate his breaking out of his shell. Felix is spiteful and thinks too highly of himself despite his blatant shortcomings, so Khalil Ramos deserves kudos for playing him so intricately.

The film seems to only set up a Felix-Magnus love story at the onset, but there is a revelation midway through the film that shifts the tone. It is difficult to ascertain whether the shift works or not, but those who came to theaters expecting a straightforward plot are definitely in for a ride. Not only does the revelation entail a moral dilemma, but it also opens the film to tackle existential (and postcolonial) questions by further exploring Felix’s history as well as Marcus and Maxim’s distinct motivations.

With the Mt. Pinatubo eruption and Clark Air Base turnover as major events that shaped the trio’s childhood, all of them have experienced some form of tragedy, but their approaches to life in the aftermath are nothing but polar opposites. Coupled with their childish entitlements and irrational choices, this difference in perspective pushes the film toward its bitter conclusion.

The movie is made watchable by the superb cinematography of Carlos Mauricio and production design by JP Sapitula. To keep with the ‘90s tone, the film’s palette is muted and the shots are framed 4:3. The costumes, hair styling, and props are milieu-authentic too, although some shots in a supermarket are a dead giveaway!

2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten is anything but typical. It adds its own dark, unique, queer flavor to a typical gay love story and is well worth watching.

Random notes (SPOILERS BELOW)

  • I do not agree with the R-18 rating. Outside of a couple of non-indulgent nudity, there’s nothing overtly sexual. Is it the gay theme? Is it the second act? Is it the kitty killing? Seems R-13 or R-16 at most to me.
  • The change in tone may be divisive for viewers, especially those who have begun rooting for Felix and Magnus. I for one would have wanted them to push through with graduating college together with honors.
  • There are some postcolonial tidbits here and there – such as both brothers wanting to go to America to leave their “shitty life” in the Philippines behind as well as one teacher branding speaking in Kapampangan as “bariotic,” and motivating his best students to go to the US. This is a running theme in films penned by Jason Paul Laxamana.
  • Some funny tidbits such as a classmate’s possession, the re-emergence of the alpha male, and the addiction to a new dance craze all add to the message of how fleeting memory is. What was once everyone’s fascination later becomes nothing, except for those who truly care.
  • Felix’s competition with a female classmate, who is infatuated with him, is a funny subplot.

Image credit: Movies for Millennials

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