The sequel to 2015’s smash hit Heneral Luna is here, and it is a film we need now more than ever. Here’s my review of Jerrold Tarog’s ‘Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral’.
Heneral Luna and Goyo are two very different films, with two very distinct tones to them. In their own films, Luna was portrayed almost as a caricature of a general with the ideals of a strongman, while Goyo was merely a puppet whose main focus was his self-interest, and was evidently more inexperienced than everyone else. He is even referred to in the film as a dog who obeys every one of his master’s commands. After all, he was one of the youngest generals at the time, and being President Aguinaldo’s favorite General, he’d do anything to keep his privileged status.
Paulo Avelino does a great job at portraying the titular General, and the way the film humanizes Goyo is one of its strongest points. The film not only sees Goyo as the bold, brave hero we’ve all known, but as a naive young man who was given power only because he’s the President’s favorite. We see him get flirtatious (and eventually fall in love), have nightmares and daydreams, get hot-headed (and often times he gets delirious), and face his constant fear of death. He redeems himself in the end, by fighting for the land he’s standing in, and in turn, giving his life up without question.
The powerful screenplay from Rody Vera and Jerrold Tarog is what makes this film more effective in delivering its message. There are a lot of memorable lines, some of them being excerpts straight from the records of our history, and most of them are still very much relevant in today’s societal landscape. There’s truth to every line spoken, and a lot of people will surely be hit with the truth without any warning. One indication of a good film is when it ends and the people start discussing and analyzing even before leaving the cinema. This film does that, and there’s definitely a lot to be talked about here.
The film is beautifully shot, invoking a sense of calmness amidst all the war at the time, just like how Goyo chose his own comfort and interests over facing the battles of the war that’s ahead of him. The way the sceneries were captured was mesmerizing, and the sound design is great, though I didn’t appreciate that well as the speakers at our local theater are crap. I recommend watching this in a premium cinema or in ones that are equipped with Dolby Atmos or similar audio technologies to get the complete experience.
The ensemble cast is too big to critique on one by one, but there are a lot of notable performances in here. As I’ve said, Paulo Avelino does a great job portraying Goyo, and he has great rapport with Rafa Siguion-Reyna, who plays Julian, Goyo’s brother. The same goes for Carlo Aquino as Vicente, who has great rapport with his improptu sidekick, Arron Villaflor’s Joven. The scenes that feature the four of them together are the lighter scenes of the film, giving us a break from the dreadful surroundings of that time. Empress Schuck and Gwen Zamora are fine on their own, but their own interactions with each other feel forced. The mango picking scene featuring the two women seemed a bit unnecessary in my opinion. A menacing, but bloodied Art Acuña constantly taunts Goyo through his dark visions. Mon Confiado and Epy Quizon are consistent as Aguinaldo and Mabini, respectively, but I’m not entirely on board with the film painting Aguinaldo as an absolutely evil being, and Mabini having saintly goodness.
Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral dares to say what no other film can. It tells us to let go of our blinding idolatry and fight for what we believe is right, and to stick to our own principles no matter what anyone else says. It may not be a perfect film, but one thing’s for sure, it’s a film we need now more than ever, especially in our country’s current state.
My Rating: 9/10
Here’s the full trailer for ‘Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral’: