‘Walwal’ is Out of Touch

This youth-focused movie is anything but youthful

by Philbert Dy

Walwal details the lives of four male college students. Lawyer-to-be Dondi (Elmo Magalona) gets broken up with, and he struggles to move on from his obsession. Playboy Marco (Kiko Estrada) gets a phone call out of the blue, and is subsequently informed that he has gotten a girl pregnant. Athlete Intoy (Jerome Ponce) is struggling with his studies, and has become curious about the identity of his father. Lastly, aspiring filmmaker Bobby (Donny Pangilinan) sets out to get a short film in a film festival, and along the way makes a connection to Ruby (Kisses Delavin), a quirky classmate who shares his very passion for cinema.

There are four separate narrative threads here. The stories intersect, but often, only briefly, and with no real consequence. The scenes where all four are together mainly involve these young men drinking and making fun of each other. For the most part, the four go through individual trials that don’t really involve the others in any substantial way. It becomes easier, then, to just regard each quarter of this film as its own little thing. So, the film basically has four chances to get a story right. Unfortunately, it never really gets there.

 Of the four stories, Dondi’s and Bobby’s are the weakest. Dondi spends the movie being a terrible person, and by the end of the movie, he hasn’t really done anything particularly profound. He is made out to be some sort ofhero for doing the absolute minimum a halfway decent person in his situation might do. There is a conflict with his father that is set up, but never fully resolved. Bobby also has a conflict with his dad, but that is also just waved away by the end. His scenes are more or less just tedious conversations with Ruby, quizzing each other on identifying movie quotes.

Marco’s story touches on something potentially interesting, but it backs away from it too quickly. In general the film seems to be averse to conflict, either neglecting to create any, or just skipping ahead when it comes time to reckon with what is already there. There is a scene in Marco’s story, for example, that involves him being threatened. That threat never pays off, and the character who makes the threat is never seen again. The story that works best is Intoy’s though that isn’t through any particular merit in the writing. The structure of this narrative is weird, and the story seems to belong more to his mother than to him.

Its main appeal might just be the fact that Angeli Bayani is in it, and that she’s going above and beyond to sell this flimsy material. Her presence also seems to bring out the best in Jerome Ponce, who flexes more dramatic muscle than any of his co-stars. There isn’t a whole lot to say about Elmo Magalona, Kiko Estrada, and Donny Pangilinan. The roles just aren’t very good, and the three aren’t really able to make anything out of them. They kind of come off as just a bunch of dumb bros. Visually, the movie is terribly uninteresting. There isn’t even a lot of coverage. The movie is weirdly prone to playing out big moments as flat two-shots.

Walwal appears to be trying to convey some sort of youthful energy, but it fails miserably. It is anything but youthful. Youth, after all, implies some sort of hunger, some chip on the shoulder that might lead one to take big risks. This movie is complacent, its conception of youthfulness limited to its characters saying things like “fake news” and “petmalu.” It doesn’t feel like it’s challenging anything at any level, making the whole endeavor feel old and out of touch.