I’ll be honest: ‘The Boy Foretold by the Stars’ was a movie I would have very much appreciated — and very much needed — twenty-five years ago when I was still a teenager and wondering if I was ever going to find love. Back in the 90s, there wasn’t too many images on screen for romance for a young gay kid to lay their hopes and dreams on. The film, a romantic comedy about two high school seniors in a Catholic all-boy school, avoids the overt sexuality of quite a good number of gay films and settles comfortably in the innocence of young love.
I was privileged enough to have been born to liberal parents who supported and encouraged me when I came to terms with my SOGIE. They helped me find my own path on what romance would mean to me. But I know others were not so lucky. I know of many others who had to turn to media and books for role models for their gender identity and expression and couldn’t find the wholesome examples of these nor could they enjoy it openly.
‘The Boy Foretold by the Stars,’ written and directed by Dolly Dulu, is not a perfect film. The film is too tightly focused on its two leads that the world that they inhabit, which is an important factor in their romance, doesn’t bear the full weight on these characters as it should. There is a preference for unconventional camera framing that loses clarity of storytelling and while the two leads are raw yet incredibly sincere and earnest in their portrayal, there is a messiness to the crowd work that was meant to make the world around our protagonists’ life feel real, but instead makes it feel staged.
There’s quite a lot of flaws but I can excuse each one because what the film lacks in polish, it is abundant in sincerity and heart.
The film presents its two leads — the out and proud Dominic and the recently heartbroken jock Luke — in an all-boys Catholic high school. During a religious retreat where Dominic is an active volunteer and Luke is a first time participant, the two are paired and bond over the activities and exercises at the retreat, which asks for trust, vulnerability, and honesty.
What follows are moments that may fall under melodrama territory but are necessary for the gay community in terms of visibility. The films settles in comfortably in portraying a non-toxic friendship between a straight and gay teenager. That it blossoms into romance is not a consequence of their friendship but due to their own feelings of each other. Despite its innocence and sincerity, it doesn’t shy away from portrayals of high school discrimination but it is quick to answer back with a straight guy coming to his gay friend’s defense.
The film’s characters are articulate, saying what they mean and meaning what they say, which may be unrealistic but it is a welcome change in a genre that doesn’t need to be overtly realistic to justify its existence. Much like the retreat that brought Luke and Dominic to meet, the film positions truth and honesty with one’s feelings as a necessity to navigate the challenging twists and turns of being a teenager.
Director Dolly Dulu is unafraid to be campy and melodramatic and the film is unashamed of its straightforwardness. This is not a drawback but a strength as it affords ‘The Boy Foretold by the Stars’ a charm that is inescapable. What really brings the film home is the gorgeous music by Pau Protacio, the original songs by Jhaye Cura and the wonderfully raw and earnest performance from Adrian Lindayag, who plays Dominic, and Keann Johnson, who plays Luke.
Lindayag has an un-self-conscious atmosphere about him, who captures the innocence and purity of the character. But Lindayag’s strengths lie in the second half of the film when the romance turns rocky and he has to suffer in silence as the love that’s almost his is slipping away. It’s when Lindayag is quiet and is rationalising his choices in his head where he really shines. For Johnson, there is a stiffness that he brings into Luke that works towards his favor. There is a self-awareness to the situation that he uses like a weapon. The stiffness is evident, which can make Luke feel bland, but when he’s alone with Dominic, Johnson softens up and relaxes and the effect on screen is wonderful. He acts freer, more comfortable in all his scenes with Lindayag that it feels deliberate, building the chemistry between them and solidifying it. It’s a satisfying performance that does wonders for the movie.
I will gloss over the lack of finesse in the filmmaking because even with its flaws, ‘The Boy Foretold by the Stars’ transcends its execution to deliver a film I wish I saw 25 years ago. It gave me goosebumps at the right moments and made me cry at the end. I saw pure, innocent images of two teenage boys in love and we really need films like this.