Cinemalaya Coming-of-age Drama Uncategorized

CINEMALAYA 2019 | MOVIE REVIEW: ‘John Denver Trending’ (2019)

See how social media has made humanity so cruel, in this powerful tale of life in the new age. Here’s my review of Arden Rod Condez’s ‘John Denver Trending’

The film follows John Denver Cabungal, a young student from the province of Antique, as he is wrongfully accused of stealing his classmate’s iPad, and is caught on video beating that classmate up. As the video goes viral on social media, we follow his journey as he tries to clear his name and prove his innocence, as everyone around him slowly turns their back on him.

I was a victim of bullying before, and seeing this film brought back the pain and frustration of trying to live normally in a world where everyone looks down on you. This film has given me so many feelings I can’t even begin to explain, but there’s one feeling that stays until the end of the film: sadness.

Sure, John Denver isn’t the perfect example of a human being, but in this day and age, no one really is. People make mistakes, and it’s just so frustrating to see how the world has failed on John Denver because of something he is falsely accused of. What makes me even more affected is that someone, somewhere, at this very moment could be feeling the same way, experiencing the same things.

This is how we deal with things nowadays. Once we see something online, we immediately believe it no matter how. We never seek the truth out further, we just settle with whatever we’re told. We choose to believe what is believed by many, even though it is not the truth. These days, we’re never even allowed to speak our truth online without other people judging you. Everyone has their own biases, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to each and everyone’s side, right?

When we make a mistake online, it’s more of a crucifixion rather than just a simple oopsie. We gang up on the bullied and shred their reputation to pieces, without even hearing their side. This new age has taught us to be less compassionate to one another, to not understand what every single one of us is going through. I believe this is what the kids call ‘cancel culture‘, right? Well, I hate it. And so should you. It harbors hatred and apathy, and it doesn’t help anyone.

Anyway, what I liked about this film is how raw it all feels. It also has to do with its setting, the province of Antique is quite refreshing to see on screen, and it’s nice to know how the people there live their day to day lives. To my understanding, there’s only one professional actor in the film, Meryll Soriano, who does a splendid job as John Denver’s mother. The purity of her performance makes her stand out from the rest of Cinemalaya’s actresses, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets acting awards for this performance.

Janssen Magpusao, in his first acting role, is affecting as the titular John Denver Cabungcal. Sure, it’s his first time and he still needs a lot of improvement in acting, but for what is needed in the film, he surely delivers. The ending really affected me, and it helps that the scoring is good, it never overpowers the scene and it provides the perfect atmosphere.

John Denver Trending is such a powerful film with an extremely important message to tell. Words cannot even explain how deeply affected I am by it. The ending gave me goosebumps like no other film in this year’s line-up has given me. Go see it, it will change your perspective on life and the world we currently live in after. It’s one of Cinemalaya’s best, one of this year’s best films, even.

My Rating: 10/10

Here’s the full trailer for ‘John Denver Trending’:

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