Orderly ‘Old Skool’: A Film Review
Article and Photos by Patricia Dauz
When we think of Grade 6, it usually evokes images of prepubescent boys and boys and girls running around in uniform. This is not the case in this film. The protagonist Fely (Tessie Tomas) encounters a life crisis, possibly the result of post-traumatic stress, after the death of her husband (Erick Samonte). This leads her to reevaluate her existence and without the partner who gave her life meaning, she decided to pursue a dream which she has left behind: elementary graduation. However, the 69-year old granny encounters her biggest challenge in the person of a school bully named Buboy (BuboyVillar).
This is the directorial debut of Cia Hermosa-Jorge, who happened to be a mentee of the late Marilou Diaz-Abaya, as well as Tessie Tomas’ niece. The strongest aspect of the film is its casting. Fely’s daughter (Angel Aquino) looks like the typical lower middle class corporate slave, while folks from the school (teachers and students) do look like they belong to that social class.
However, the film suffers from many flaws by looking too much like a film. Sure, the dialogues look natural, even the banter between Fely and Buboy. But, everything seems so contrived. There was a big solo scene of Tessie Tomas in the hallway during break time and people are nowhere to be found. It’s as if the setting turns into a “ghost school” when something happens to the protagonist at the expense of what happens normally in school. This is a “slice of life” type of material, which would have worked best if it was executed in a realistic level. Campiness is still an option but it’s obvious that the intention of the director is for the audience to relate to the characters. This intention wasn’t fully realized.
The film is also full of stereotypes. Buboy is a school bully, so even though in real life the length of his hair is not allowed at all in schools. But in this film, this is how a bully supposed to look like. A smart move though, from the wardrobe department, it seems his appearance improved after Fely inspires him to make a positive change. His hair becomes gelled and his polo gets buttoned up. However, Fely’s hair obviously looks like a wig. It’s so clumpy and the white tones are uneven. The kid in the class who loves science has to actually look like a nerd. Can’t a handsome boy with a killer smile love science then?
A major area which contributed to the film’s two-dimensional approach and unrealism is the production design. It is nice that everything is so clean and arranged in Fely’s house, but it is not logical. Remember, the granny lives alone most of the time, yet, the house is always in order with not a speck of dust on it. It wasn’t established that a maid actually drops by to help her out. Does the house clean itself up? Even Fely’s medal hanging on the wall which she examines with nostalgia looks like it’s on display for sale because it’s just so shiny. Fely obviously stated that she earned that during her elementary days, which is like more than half a century ago. There’s also a flashback scene featuring a younger version of her late husband (played Villar) where the two were prancing around in the woods but they have immaculate white outfits which look like they’ve been washed thoroughly with Ariel or Tide. Do they have some kind of anti-dust force field around them?
Tomas and Villar may have commendable performances in this film, but the story is still the master.