Philophobia: Review. By Alif Majeed.
As I was about to start Philophobia, also known as As I Am, I tried to figure out the general cliches regarding coming-of-age movies with a male protagonist. Since many of them follow a particular template, I thought it would be fun trying to figure it out.
Off the top of my head, I figured the top 5 would be:
1. A sensitive protagonist who is more often than not a would-be writer who others often have to remind that he is way too good for the town
2. Said protagonist always seems to have trouble at his house, which affects his general behavior
3. A lady-love who has way more guts than said protagonist but whom he pines for but often loses her to the local bad boy, who can be dangerously close to being termed a psychopath
4. A group of friends who often work hard to get into trouble and are hell-bent on getting him into trouble too. In the end, all they want is some harmless fun, but if it is a drama, this will inevitably spell disaster for at least some of them
5. A sympathetic elder character who might also often be their teacher who understands their need to get into trouble whom people might also hold responsible for the kids getting into trouble.
With that in mind, I started watching the movie and slowly realized it checks off all the cliches mentioned above on my list. It is a movie that hardly rises above the stereotypes the genre entails. It adds nothing new to the canon of the coming-of-age genre. Which is not required, but that makes it look like a by-the-numbers coming-of-age flick.
Now it’s not bad by any measure and actually looks pretty great. Everyone who has worked on the movie also seems to have put a lot of work into it. Sadly, their efforts come undone as it is the writing that ultimately lets the film down.
The actors also do their bit to elevate the material as they create some lovely character moments. There is a scene where Kai, the main character (Joshua Glenister) walks in on Grace (Kim Spearman), his crush having sex with the town bully Kenner (Alex Lincoln), with whom she has an on-off relationship. The reactions of the three actors also make you playback that disturbing scene in your mind, trying to figure out what is the degree of consent or choice in those situations if there is any.
The character of Kenner and Alex’s portrayal of him are also something that also stayed with me. He knows he is an asshole and has no qualms about admitting it. He also acknowledges Jason is a better person than him, and he keeps bullying him for not taking charge of his life. Imagine if Ben Affleck was a massive dick in Good Will Hunting.
By the time the movie got over, you hope that the film might follow a different trajectory from the usual coming-of-age arc. But you realize that is not so, as the movie slowly trudges to its predictable ending. Pity because it is a well-shot and well-acted movie otherwise.
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