Film Review: Tale of the Lost Boys

Identity is generally defined in psychology, social science, gender, anthropology, and philosophy as “self-reflection and awareness”, but as Martin Heidegger puts it, there is no escaping from the socially constructed meanings which are put upon a person and how they form themselves out of these meanings.  More about coming to terms with the feeling of lost and confusion, Joselito Altarejos’ new film is a definitive reflection about identities – whether it is psychological, sexual, sociological, anthropological, or philosophical.  One man asks, “who am I?” and the other wants to know WHY he is who he is.

We often argue what makes a film a cut above the rest – Tale of the Lost Boys stands on a very interesting ground to strive how a profoundly synthesized thematic and dramatic feature rolls out fluidly in pictures.  Two men, a Filipino slacker (Oliver Aquino as Alex) and a Taiwanese med student (Soda Voyu as Jerry) meet by happenstance and quickly develop a platonic relationship  even if one of them is content living in with another man, and the other just flew away after refusing shared pregnancy .

As the title suggests, both young men are seemingly at odds with how they stand in a society both bound by common race and culture. For Alex, his lack of self-worth is bound by his inability to compensate his tragic tale of parental abandonment where he assumes the role of the hapless victim. He shortchanges his own relationships because there is always a tendency to be consumed in pain and anger, and sheltering himself means avoiding responsibilities and the uncertainties of forming deep connections. For Jerry, his fears and emotional weaknesses consume his somewhat charmed being that he even sometimes questions the supposedly rewarding choices he has made because they contradict the traditions of his aboriginal roots. Their friendship is highlighted by an impromptu trip back Jerry’s country home. The Taiwanese has to gather enough strength to come truthful about his sexual identity to his parents, while the Filipino learns that while he often verbalizes his disinclination with anything that pertains to “family”, the pureness of his heart belies all outward posturing – and makes him realize that in order to move forward, he has to come to terms with the unfinished issues of neglect by his own mother.

Altarejos’ Lost Boys is quite officially his return to his LGBT film roots – although, this isn’t much as explicit as the ones that stirred the pot for over a decade, the film marks another hint of the filmmaker’s maturity towards his favorite subject – identities. For Altarejos, a person needs to strive hard to claim his own identity through his own resolutions and discoveries. In Kasal (The Commitment, 2015),  a marriage between same sexes cannot be simply argued by legalities and cultural sensitivities – it has to be a foremost agreement with a person’s own conviction. In TPO (Temporary Protection Order, 2016), the question does not rest entirely on either the victim or the victimizer – but on the identities created by a person’s choice detached by the norms of a conservative society. From Ang Lalake Sa Parola (2007) to Unfriend (2014), a person has to know themselves beyond the limits of comportment and the society. In the Lost Boys, a Taiwanese-Filipino international production, a person’s identity can be found only by how they deal with another person – and how they present themselves internally and externally – disclaiming Heidegger’s apprehensions that one’s identity is the sum of all the normative factors contributed therein. Barely 80 minutes, Lost Boys makes highly competent ingestion of May Delos Santos’ impassioned screenplay.

Interestingly, and quite amusingly, Lost Boys visualizes the always evolving qualities of a kinetic and fluid cinema. The colors move with the actions, and the chromatic displays roll painterly with the emotions and quirks conveyed, which always speaks of Altarejos’ proficiency with the film language and the articulacy of technical directions communicated through Cesca Lee’s most adroit cinematography.

Tale of the Lost Boys, produced and distributed by Portico’s Jay Lin, premiered at the Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival last July; following a very well-received screenings at Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and starting tomorrow, a North American premiere at this year’s NewFest: New York LGBT Film Festival. The film is yet to premiere in the Philippines.

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