Joven Tan’s Petmalu is more than a little bit late in its desire to bank on its title for ticket sales, as the colloquial term’s popularity has long faded.
The title however isn’t the only thing about the film that is obsolete, as almost everything in the film is old, musty and best forgotten.
First things first: Unlike Jose Javier Reyes’ Walwal, another of this year’s youth-oriented films that appropriate a millennial-specific term as its title in a failed attempt to be youthful, the title of Tan’s film at least serves some sort of narrative purpose, as Petmalu is in fact an acronym for the first letters of the names of the friends who comprise the film’s main characters.
But then the fact that the term has 7 letters which equate to 7 main characters who each have their own conflicts opens up the film to the task of dividing its attention among the seven characters and their varied storylines. This makes Petmalu insufferably crowded.
It doesn’t help that none of the storylines are novel.
Essentially, the seven friends have their unique problems. One is poor, which isn’t helped by the fact that his 6 other friends are either rich or moneyed enough to get by. One is rich but is being forced by his parents to take a college course that isn’t to his liking. One is gay but is afraid to come out to his parents and his friends. One wants to be a musician but his brother who is supporting him financially doesn’t want him to pursue his passion.
Cardboard cutout concerns
If you get the drift, all of the conflicts that the film tries to tie together are torturously generic.
Even more generic is how the conflicts shape the story. The poor boy tries to reconnect with the wealthy dad who doesn’t want anything to do with him. The rich boy rebels and leaves home. The gay boy isn’t accepted by his family and some of his friends, resulting in a predictable tragedy. The musician resorts to drugs. Petmalu is essentially an unimaginatively curated collection of clichés.
Tan doesn’t put any effort in making any of the characters rise above their cardboard cutout concerns.
What he does is to concern the film with needless ornamentations that doesn’t do anything to take the film out of the dank and decrepit attic. Every now and then, the characters sing and belt out their feelings.
The melodies, however, are unmemorable and their lyrics treacly. Given that the film is ridiculously busy juggling storylines, the inclusion of embarrassingly mawkish songs only serves to mar the already uneven rhythm of the film, lulling it when it should be speeding towards its predictable finish line.
If anything, all of Tan’s pointless embellishments, from the songs to the congestion of actors and actresses like Irma Adlawan and Allan Paule who can’t stretch their talents given their minuscule roles, only further fossilizes Petmalu.
This fossil however isn’t the type that gets more valuable as time goes by. This one I predict will just quickly disappear, like the dastardly word that inspired its title. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.