Wednesday, June 10, 2009

UPCAT (Roman Carlo Olivarez, 2008)

The film can best be described as Pisay-lite. Like the Auraeus Solito film, UPCAT is a well-made, entertaining film dealing with high school students on the verge of maturity. There are similar themes between the two films such as first love, cut-throat competition, scholars serving the people, and pursuit of one’s dream. There are similar scenes like the tête-à-têtes on rooftops. Both films also featured indie favorite Arnold Reyes. The main differences between the two films are Pisay is better directed and it captured perfectly the essence of the featured school.

UPCAT is not about student life in the University of the Philippines. It deals with students wishing to enter the country’s sole National University. It examines how those UPCAT dreams make or break the success of students in the future. The choices they make during their school years will determine their career paths.

The start of the film showing the future selves of students was a bit confusing. Eventually, the film found its rhythm. The story and the characters were well-drawn. But, I don’t agree with Avelino and Baby Olivarez’s reason for dissuading Lucas (Felix Roco) from taking the exam. I believe that life’s lessons, no matter how traumatic, should be imparted to the youth so that they may learn from them.

Students need to choose wisely their answers to life’s problems and questions. The masters of the Alpha Kappa Omega fraternity featured in Batch ‘81 are probably batch mates of an important character in the film. Ben’s choice of school organization had an impact on his life. A lead character in the film chooses BA Political Science as his course. This decision leads him to his one true love.

There are several valuable tips for test takers. The film suggests takers to practice shading circles the right way. The film also advises students to seek help for problems they cannot solve on their own. Lucas hesitates to take the UPCAT. He thinks he is not brainy enough to pass the exam. However, he is afraid of losing Jane Concepcion (Hiyasmin Neri) if he doesn’t make it to UP. He decides to take a review course offered by Michael Mendoza (Richard Quan). And, coupled with a more positive attitude, he passes the test.

There’s a minor production design booboo I’d noticed. Jane Concepcion was looking at her siblings’ college diplomas. One of the diplomas had ‘Conception’ as surname. This mistake is not noticeable in televisions but in a theater screen it is easily detected.

UPCAT ended up as the most popular film of Cinema One Originals 2008. A large part of the film’s success was due to the wonderful bunch of refreshing, young, and talented actors. Felix Roco and Yas Neri were able to hold their own against veteran actors Bembol Roco and Mark Gil in most scenes. However, it was the smart-aleck turned tibak (Joseph Roble) who was the film’s acting revelation.

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