From the opening narration of ‘Ang Henerasyong Sumuko sa Love,’ we get the feeling that this is a film that’s going to spoon feed to us all the important takeaway of the film while trying to be unbearably hip. The film makes a thematic statement in this voice-over that tells us literally what the film is going to be about while referencing the Internet and social media buzzwords before introducing us to the barkada the film centers on.
For a Jason Paul Laxamana film, these characters played by Tony Labrusca, Jane Oineza, Jerome Ponce, Albie Casino, and Myrtle Sarrosa are the least defined and least specific of the characters he has written (of the films that I’ve seen). We are introduced to them in a camping trip in celebration of graduating on time. They then make a pact to go to that same spot every year without need for an invite or reminder.
And to even make that night inevitable, they catch a meteor to mark the occasion.
We then fast forward to a year later, and Tony Labrusca’s Kurt is the first to return to the spot and he waits for his friends to arrive. One by one, they do and we begin to find out what happened to each one after their first year after college.
The plot is simple enough, and what Laxamana aims to do is to paint a portrait of a generation and all the major issues that surround them. Jane Oineza’s Ma-An becomes a vlogger and online personality, who suffers from the pressures to compete and tackles the idea of selling out just to make it big. Jerome Ponce’s Denzel is the stereotypical gay guy obsessed with one night stands who picks up from an app, and then he meets a guy who wants Denzel to take him seriously. Denzel becomes representative of gay guys afraid of commitment.
Albie Casino and Myrtle Sarrosa’s story is intertwined as they play Hadj and Junamae, who end up living together, but Junamae doesn’t want labels and this becomes challenging for Hadj, who is a classic romantic and is fueled by all the romantic movies he watches for work as a subtitle editor.
And then finally there is Tony Labrusca’s Kurt, who is the quintessential workaholic freelancer, burdened by the family obligation to help out in his family’s expenses.
Unfortunately, this all there is to these characters. There’s no feeling of history or backstory for Kurt, Ma-an, Denzel, Hadj, and Junamae. Without history or backstories, the actors have to build drama on hollow characters with hollow relationships. There is very little in this barkada that feels real. They have conversations with each other that sound like it’s the first time they are talking about these things.
In fact, of the many films of Jason Paul Laxama that I’ve seen, this has the weakest dialogue. It’s generic, it’s literal, and it’s devoid of personal context for these characters. With no scene or believable reality to pull from, many of the actors deliver one-dimensional portrayals and have difficulty connecting with each other. The only one who manages to rise above the empty script is Myrtle Sarrosa.
Sarrosa’s Junamae feels the most fleshed out. Her responses come from really listening and not just waiting to deliver her lines. Her insistence in not labeling her relationship with Hadj comes from a grounded place. It is real to Sarrosa and when the one line that explains her character jumps out, it all makes sense.
This is also the major issue with the script. There’s a whole lot of drama but we don’t know these characters' lives before the narrative begins and they go through the motions but without knowing their backstories, it doesn’t resonate. When it needs to, the film gives out the information at the third act of each individual story as a sort of tidy bow to resolve issues.
There’s no sense of foreshadowing or set up for any of the big reveals or climactic turning points. It’s all just what’s on the surface and nothing deeper, nothing truly character-driven is at stake. It’s just about an alcoholic, a conflicted social media star, a horny gay man confronted by the possibility of love, and a couple with different ideas about relationships.
At the very end, the film pushes these characters back together after pulling them apart -- for no real reason other than for the drama -- by a story element that doesn’t feel earned.
John Paul Laxamana’s ‘Ang Henerasyong Sumuko sa Love’ is the least affecting and least entertaining film of his and when you consider the fact that he has released 15 movies since 2016, maybe the quantity might just be affecting the quality of his work. I would have liked him to have taken more time with this and bring back the breadth of his characterizations like in ‘Between Maybes’ and ‘To Love Some Buddy.’