Senior Year offers realistic portrayal of high school life
by Fidel Antonio Medel
"Whether you remember your days in high school vividly, or consider them distant memories impossible to recall, you will undoubtedly find something to love in Senior Year.
Director Jerrold Tarog assembles stories from colorful, albeit stereotypical characters found in a high school campus: the bully and the bullied, the popular kids and the outsiders, the freaks and geeks, and so on. Although we've seen these characters countless of times, we've never seen them to be this authentic.
Tarog's characters remind us of an amusing classmate, the bully we love to hate, our very own clique or a long-lost love. The dialogue and the plot resonate primarily because the characters are so familiar. We were those kids 10 or 20 years ago.
Senior Year flips through the yearbook of St. Fredrick's High School. It charts the journey of a motley crew of senior students four months before their graduation. Henry can't seem to write a valedictory speech that will inspire his classmates. Carlo learns the true meaning of being a man. Bunda deals with domestic issues. Steph discovers the identity of her secret admirer. Briggs breaks up with his girlfriend Bridget. Solenn teaches Sophia to come out of her shell. Mitch washes the dirt of revenge off her hands.
These may be trivial for grownups, but for high school students, these are life-and-death situations. Senior Year transports us back to a time when unflushed fecal matter can cause a commotion in the toilet and when losing the intramurals feels like losing a loved one. The events unfold in a briskly, moving from one day to the next.
Senior Year doesn't pretend that high school is the best time of our lives, because it isn't. High school is nothing more than a fun period in life that doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. There are no life-changing decisions. Our crush does not turn out to be the love of our lives. We search for ourselves and continue to do so even after high school.
Adding to the film's authenticity is a cast of newcomers who play the students. During the first part of the movie, it's hard to follow individual stories of the ensemble. It's hard to distinguish one from the other. They all look the same—pimply, ordinary-looking, and all too real.
Early standouts are Solenn (Nikita Conwi), with perfect and annoying coño inflections, and Sophia (Rossanne de Boda), who goes from ugly duckling to swan. As the movie unfolds, we get to know each character and we are reminded of our imperfect selves back in the day.
Meanwhile, the teachers are played by professional actors. Che Ramos reprises her role as the idealistic teacher in Faculty, the Ambisyon 2010 short film. At this point, Che can do no wrong. As long as she keeps making the right films, she will get the accolades she richly deserves.
Ramon Bautista essays the role of the gym teacher who urges students to "work as a team," while LJ Moreno plays the role of an English teacher with an "abusive" boyfriend.
Senior Year also gives us a peek into what happens to some of the students 10 years after they graduate from high school: Ina Feleo, Arnold Reyes, RJ Ledesma, Dimples Romana, and Kalila Aguilos get to play two versions of themselves.
Did the valedictorian succeed in life? Did young love triumph over the obstacles of adulthood? And did the swan complete her metamorphosis? Maybe they did. Maybe not. Does it really matter? We do not become failures if we fall short of expectations. Senior Year teaches us to savor the moment, hope for the best, and stop worrying about the future.