Review: Joel Ferrer's HELLO, WORLD Has Too Much Fun, But Too Little Emotional Heft

We all were once invincible. 

High with puberty, we were indestructible with our first time sexual encounters, super secret crushes, and truckloads of alcohol. We talked with flair, mouthing fad words that are strange to adult ears. We walked with a peculiar bounce, carrying an imaginary heft while displaying our newly minted moustaches and Adam's Apples. Then adulthood happened. After several years of discovering our meager places in the largely frustrating adult world, we conjured something called nostalgia. Nostalgia momentarily brought us back to that time when we all were invincible. Only now, armed with the realities of the world, the past was something as silly as a standard sitcom.

Joel Ferrer's Hello, World is bursting with nostalgia. It examines the typical and uneventful coming-of-age of two high school graduates from the perspective of an adult who has been there and has done all that. Unabashed in its portrayal of the normal teenager's angst and arrogance as both awkward and funny, the film seems to have a feel of being told straight out of the very selective memory of someone whose journey to being an adult is as ordinary as anybody else's. Weeded out are the dull moments where nothing absolutely happens. What remains are the hilarious anecdotes, the brash exaggerations, the brags, and the gentle lessons in life.

Jeff (Victor Medina) and Johann (Philip Quintos) have been best friends since they were kids. After high school, both are left with decisions that would mark their lives forever. Jeff is to migrate to the United States with his mother, leaving behind all his memories of the Philippines and more importantly, Annie (Maria Francesca Lim), his secret crush and twin sister of Johann. Johann, armed with one-and-a-half sexual encounters with his more mature girlfriend (Ginny Palma), wants to skip college and relax. A summer full of wild experiences with Jeff's comically liberated aunt (Trixie Dauz) and Johann's too-good-to-be-true rival (Reuben Uy) for his best friend and girlfriend's attention seems to be the only cure to their nagging dilemma.

Candidness is the film's strength. Hello, World is undaunted by any need to be anything more than it is. It sees in its wackiness an openness to define youth as but a playground. Adolescence is therefore the final five minutes in the playground, where all reason and good behavior are quickly thrown aside for those last precious moments of fun and irresponsibility. Ferrer indulges in the absurdity that a rapidly fleeting youth can only provide. His film is consistently funny with its sketches of teenagers desperately clinging to the freedoms of childhood while slowly creeping into the seriousness of adult life.

Candidness, however, is also the film's weakness. There is too much of it for comedy's sake, and too little for anything else. Inconsistent crafting is actually the least of its problems. In its efforts to be unreasonably zany, it forgets to plant a heart. The spoofs are undoubtedly plenty. Most of them are genuinely effective. When Ferrer however attempts to more than funny, when he finally decides to give his waylaid teenagers a taste of being riddled with grown up problems, the weight of all the foolishness he has so cleverly and wittily written seems to be too difficult to set aside. For all the joy and laughter Ferrer brings into his portrait of teenage life, he neglects the emotional heft of leaving it. Despite sincere attempts, Hello, World seems to be unable to graduate from being anything more than a caricature of memories.


(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)
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