I didn’t know what to expect from Senior Year. I’m not really a fan of mushy local movies.
The movie projectionist made a gaff by showing the UI of the digital projector. It looked a lot like one of those home DIV/X players. After several minutes of fiddling (with snarky comments about downloading the movie through torrents), they finally got the movie rolling.
SENIOR YEAR opens with a “10-years-later” high school reunion. We get introduced to the class valedictorian who’s sitting in his car really not wanting to go in. And amidst his angst, we get transported back to high school. We get to know his classmates and teachers and we get to know what led them to that high school reunion.
First off, it’s a beautiful movie. The digital HD format is Godsend to indie filmmakers. SENIOR YEAR was crystal clear where we saw it and it just helped to make those out-of-the-ordinary shots shine even more. The shots used in this movie are uncommon in local cinema. The big studios can learn a thing or two (or three) from these guys. I was struggling to find a similar local movie and the best I could come up with were the real-world sequences of RPG:Metanoia. They used establishing shots to set the mood of scenes. A few seconds seemingly wasted on a shot of the roof with clouds going by made a nice transition to a following poignant scene.
The film is cinema verité-ish in the sense that the audience feels that they are students casually mingling with the cast or some uzisero who’s just observing these characters live their lives.
Casting wise, they couldn’t have done better. The kids are so real. The teachers are so real. No big name stars though I recognized some PETA people whom we saw at CareDivas. Though i felt at times that the cast of characters was so large that I couldn’t keep track of everybody.
I like the fact that these guys didn’t idealize high school. They showed the pettiness, the pseudo-politics, the overall weirdness of that phase. (though that location where they shot this movie, That was a pretty school!)
This movie reminds me of a little known singaporean movie – “The Teenage Textbook Movie” shown back in the 1990’s. TTTM Almost has the same feel but was more comedic in tone. Where Senior Year makes it mark by being real, the Singaporean movie sometimes lapses into absurd comedy. Still a nice way to while away a couple of hours, TTTM should be floating around in YouTube somewhere.
Oh yeah, another similarity between The Teenage Textbook Movie and Senior Year is that they both have really nice soundtracks. Nothing wild or anything but nice poignant acoustic songs
SENIOR YEAR is triumph in local indie filmmaking. These guys have shown that indie need not be esoteric and unreachable.
Even if your high school experience was a memory better left forgotten, SENIOR YEAR makes remembering worthwhile.