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Cine-Crítico-Filipino

Cine Crítico Filipino is envisioned as a growing community of young film critics who take film writing and criticism seriously. As a collective, we imagine a Filipino cinema with a healthy and vibrant dialogue between its filmmakers and critics, and aspire to develop the great Filipino audience.  

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Sine Simplified

by Jason Tan Liwag

Overdue: ‘The Boy Foretold by the Stars’

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The Boy Foretold by the Stars film still
Film still from the film’s trailer c/o Clever Minds Inc.

In its unabashed sweetness and emotional honesty, The Boy Foretold by the Stars is a clear message to queer audiences — fate or not, you deserve to be chosen.

I was 17 when I came out to someone.

It was to my then-boyfriend. We were at one of the benches in Kostka extension in Ateneo de Manila University. He showed me a poem he wrote on his iPad and it ended with an “I love you”. I whispered to him that I loved him back, but I didn’t know if I was ready to face the world. He said it was okay, to keep this love a secret, at least for the time being. But secrets were like splinters on your thumb, small but persistent reminders of pain you can’t seem to remove.

I was 18 when I saw Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros for the first time during a philosophy class. We were talking about ‘genuineness’, arguing endlessly about whether or not Maximo, the titular character, was only pretending to be himself or if he had already found himself. “What does that even mean?” I argued back to my mostly straight classmates. “When you’re so young, how could you even possibly know what you want, moreso who you are?” 

I was 21 when my boyfriend and I broke up. We were together for nearly five years (which is long for most gay couples). I was in my condo in Katipunan and he was in his apartment in Chicago. I waited until it was the same day for the two of us to break it off. I remember taking a picture of the sky and a picture of myself crying, with a note on one of my notebooks: “Don’t ever look like this ever again.”

I’ve seen countless gay love stories born and countless more die, in and out of fiction: throuple breakups on Twitter, cheating rumors spreading via word-of-mouth, disagreements right before my eyes, you name it. It seemed to me that each story of queer love was bound for disaster at some point; an ill-starred event in Italian, ending before it has even begun. To grow up a member of the LGBTQ+ community is to see queer love die time and time again.

I was 24 when I saw The Boy Foretold by the Stars.

The Boy Foretold by the Stars is a story of two boys — Dominic Cruz (Adrian Lindayag) and Luke Armada (Keann Johnson) — in all-boys Catholic high school St. Francis’ School. Following a school retreat and series of fortune-telling sessions with the zany Baby R (Iyah Minah), Dominic is convinced that he and Luke are star-crossed lovers. Dominic (Adrian Lindayag) becomes the entry point for the bakla, while Lukeis the entry point for straight audiences or those who may feel as though they are lost in life.

Reminiscent of the landmark Brazilian film The Way He Looks (2014) and the short film it was based on I Don’t Want To Go Back Alone (2010), the slice-of-life quality of the film is what makes it so watchable. There is a sweetness to this film; a slowness and an unapologetic quality in the falling in love. The film, at least in the first three-quarters, never gets too serious and it is a tone that it should have adopted ’til the very end.

Its exploration of friendship between people from two different worlds is compelling enough on its own. It challenges what we’ve come to expect of not only Boys’ Love dramas, but also queer Filipino stories: that the bakla can be friends with the lalake (straight male); that the two can show affection to one another while remaining completely platonic. 

This makes a case for a powerful image of love and support that we haven’t seen as much of, and I am slightly sad that it abandons it midway in favor of the romantic. Despite Reyes being an excellent actress, her appearance as Karen clouds the narrative and her absence in the first three-quarters makes for a stronger metaphor: the heteronormative expectations that Luke has to abandon, but which looms over him constantly like a spectre.

We turn to cinema and television for our happy endings. They serve as our escape from these patriarchal and outdated ideologies that constantly confine us into binaries. The Boys’ Love boom in the Philippines is one of many attempts at reliving what was lost to us in adolescence. Though matriarchal upbringings are common in Filipino families, patriarchal systems still exist outside the home. Even if there are stories of love, tragedy is often quick to follow, and along with it the derogatory terms that seem to haunt us even in the media: baklasirena, etc.

Which is why when Luke asks Dominic if he’s gay and the two treat it like any question on Earth, some part of me felt an explosion of joy. For so long, we are asked to reclaim our stories and to reclaim words thrown at us like stones. But the industry itself has relied on cisgender heterosexual storytellers to do that for us. Worse, these actors, directors, and producers don’t even bother being allies to our community — capitalizing on these borrowed stories without fighting for the same human rights they ought to be extending their efforts off-screen to. 

It is a landmark to see Adrian Lindayag — an out androfemme actor — as Dominic. Though he bears the weight of decades of calls for queer representation in cinema (especially by the effeminate gays who are largely confined to side characters), he does this with such ease. His screen presence is only matched by his grace and generosity as a scene partner. As he hurls every bit of his soul in each scene, you can’t help but feel encouraged to do the same in reality.

The Boy Foretold by the Stars film still
Film still from the film’s trailer c/o Clever Minds Inc.

It’s refreshing to see a gay character who isn’t questioning. Dominic and his circle of supportive friends — portrayed by the hilarious duo Jan Rey Escano and John Leinard Ramos — are unashamed of being gay (though at times, the latter seemed, at least to me, over-the-top in some situations). Dominic is not quick to impose and knows what boundaries can and cannot be crossed; his self-awareness most evident as they are recruiting boys to join Journey. He knows his self-worth and that he is worth fighting for. How many of us — young or old, gay or straight, male or female — can say that about ourselves?

Lindayag is a quiet force onscreen: his yearning so palpable that it’s easily shared with the audience, his pain all the moreso. As an audience member, you always want to root for characters; to know that whatever time you’re investing in them is worth it. In Dominic, Lindayag embodies the kind of high schooler we all wish we were; that we hoped we were strong enough to be.  On our best days, we are him. At our worst, we hope to be like him.

For the longest time, to be gay in cinema was a death sentence: either literally, figuratively, or socially. In a way, The Boy Foretold by the Stars is both the beginning and the culmination of the Boys’ Love movement this year: the quenching of a long drought by the first torrential rain. The film, in the grand scheme of things, acts as a first and final message of acceptance, a call for destiny to be defied, a reminder that love is to be fought for, and a proof there are humane ways of depicting these multidimensional narratives. 

I wish I could tell my younger self that stories like this already existed when I was born and will someday be reflected on-screen. But I know that this film, this clean mirror, is for the generations to come: so that they will have something to look at and see themselves reflected in. See what magic can be created when people are allowed to tell their own stories with such love and care?

Sure, it’s far from perfect. But it’s ours. We can finally say that: It’s ours.

In its unabashed sweetness and emotional honesty, The Boy Foretold by the Stars is a clear message to queer audiences — fate or not, you deserve to be chosen.

Notes:

  • It’s not a secret: I was gonna love this film, whatever it ended up being.
  • When I saw Adrian and Jan Rey in the first scene, I had to pause because I started to cry. I restarted the film half-an-hour later.
  • Is the playground liminal space for the two characters to meet.
  • There are always physical barriers between Luke and Dominic and the film makes use of the architecture. This is later removed in the scenes with the open field.
  • Journey is the centerpiece for the lost, with each person entering it for different reasons, all as acts of faith.
  • The act of faith is where the two meet.
  • It really leans into cheesiness and I love that.
  • “Wala akong Spotify” was hilarious to me.
  • “Baka may mga ghosts or worse…baka may frogs!” is the single most relatable line in the entire film.
  • Power in the small smiles!
  • There are scenes and blocking when I can tell that this was originally a play.
  • The score and the soundtrack are noticeably good at telling the story.
The Boy Foretold by the Stars film still

You can still watch the film via KTX.PH.

Author & Cine Critico Filipino Member:

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