2 Cool 2 Be 4Gotten is set in the 1990s in Pampanga. Felix (Khalil Ramos) feels out of place in school, his intelligence and lack of interest in adolescent matters keeping him apart from the rest of his class. And then the troubled Filipino-American brothers Magnus and Maxim Snyder (Ethan Salvador and Jameson Blake) enroll in his school. Felix is tapped to tutor the brothers, who are basically living on the promise of being brought to the America to be with their father once they graduate from high school. And in spending time with the two brothers, there is something that awakens within Felix.The movie’s Pampanga looks like a post-apocalyptic dystopia; the destructive consequences of the lahar always just lurking in the background. The landscapes can be breathtaking, but they are imbued with a strange sense of mourning. It is the first indication that the film isn’t just a simple coming-of-age story. This isn’t just about an intelligent but stuck-up teenager learning to open himself up to new experiences. There is darkness here, just as there might be darkness inherent to the lahar-covered Pampanga landscape. And there are complex, grimy histories to be uncovered in the seemingly sweet infatuations of the characters, their relationships pointing to the scars left by noticeable absence.This all becomes clearer in retrospect. In the moment, the movie’s turn towards darkness can feel like an intrusion into this sweet tapestry of gentle remembrance. But even in the film’s depiction of Felix’s particular hangups, in its exploration of his general dissatisfaction with his surroundings, the movie hints at the violence inherent to these memories. Through Felix, the movie sketches out bold postcolonial and classist themes, his coming-of-age story inseperable from the latent tragedies of inequality that come from the unique qualities of the film’s setting.His home is buried under the lahar. His language is seen as barriotic. His sexuality, at this point in time, is still seen as abnormal, especially within the hypermasculine context presented in this story. In exploring who Felix is and what he dreams of, the movie examines the bleeding heart of a people. It captures something ephemeral, something not immediately evident about what makes these characters tick. Where the story ends up still doesn’t feel entirely earned, but the film is very rich in other ways.Whether or not the film is successful in melding its two disparate tones is debatable, but the greatness of its cinematography is not. Whether light or dark, the movie continues to deliver outstanding images that perfectly capture the emotion of any given scene. The acting is pretty great as well. Khalil Ramos is a bit of a revelation in this movie, the young actor displaying a greater control of his craft than in his previous roles. Ethan Salvador and Jameson Blake, representing two different sides of a spectrum, are both pretty compelling in their rawness.2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten is exactly why this new era of Filipino cinema can be so exciting. The democratization of film production and the rise of regional cinema is giving people access to more voices. Metro Manila, after all, holds no monopoly on a love for cinema. One can easily point out the influences, both foreign and local, that play out in this movie. But it is all filtered through a distinct cultural lens, one that seems to borne out of a specific experience of struggle with one’s own cultural identity in a country that isn’t really a country, in a people that only dream of being somewhere and someone else.
2 COOL 2 BE 4GOTTEN OPENS IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE ON MARCH 15.