Aside from the obvious reason that I enjoy supporting the work of friends I respect and admire, I was curious about the gay angle of the film. The characters were young high school students, and I wondered how Petersen and writer Jason Paul Laxamana (who was also behind the Cinemalaya indie flick “Mercury is Mine”) would balance creating a story that doesn’t devolve into stereotypes while, at the same time, would not alienate the mostly straight (and perhaps conservative) audience.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Never mind that I found the whole homicidal angle quite a bit off-key (Jameson Blake was cast really well to make this forgivable.) What I found deeply affecting about this movie was how it told Felix’s coming-of-age story so sincerely, I couldn’t help but remember being a young gay guy trying to put names into what I was feeling at the time.
It must be highlighted that you didn’t need to be gay to appreciate the film, but as a gay man, seeing Felix’s story unravel—his constant denial, the awkward pauses, the lingering looks of longing—multiplied the poignancy of this film. It reminded me how difficult it was to navigate through youth surrounded by heteronormative signals that then made me question if what I had been feeling was real or even right.
That sense of wanting to belong was perfectly captured by Khalil Ramos’s portrayal of Felix: that ever-present desire to be invisible, yet perpetually wanting to be noticed had resonated strongly throughout the movie. (That part when he lamely tried to kick the sipa back to the group of guys evidenced that he wanted so desperately to be welcomed into the fold—only he could never get in, because he just wasn’t that good or cool enough.) He was an outsider in a way that was clearly the polar opposite of how the Snyder brothers were outsiders: unlike Magnus and Maxim who disdained the attention they received, he remained unworthy of the adulation or respect of his peers, despite how he achieved academically (or how he tried to quell his urges that would affirm his gayness.)
(It wasn’t unexpected, therefore, that he gravitated towards Magnus, who had suddenly made him feel needed.)
However, I found it depressing that the last few moments showed Felix as predatorial; I’m not certain if this will reinforce existing stereotypes of gay men as sexually-starved people ready to pounce on straight men who were either scheming or weak. What I hope, however, is that Felix’s confusion was enough to convince the audience of the complexity of his character, and would at least make his failings more understandable.
Because if there is anything that must not be forgotten, perhaps it is this: that youth often gets the better of us, and not all of us will survive as wiser people regretting the frailties of our youth.
For those of us who did surpass the tumult of our younger years, it pays to remember how we were also foolish once, so that we don’t treat those who are young harshly and dismissively. Quoting Dumbledore: “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”