I was prepared for a coming of age drama when I entered the screening of writer director Maricel Cariaga’s Children of the River. However, I was caught off guard by the myriad of emotions that the film made me feel in the span of 90 minutes.
Synopsis: Childhood friends Elias, Pepsy, Agol and Robin live in a remote town with one thing on common. They all have absentee dads. Their friendship runs strong and true and they navigate their adolescent challenges with each other’s support.
I must say that Children of the River’s main appeal was its young cast who turned up outstanding performances for the movie. Noel Comia Jr. , Ricky Oriate, Dave Justin Francis and Junyka Santarin may be newbie actors but they have a natural talent. From simply shooting the breeze, getting in trouble, teasing each other and supporting each other through personal crisis, these four musketeers can be counted upon to deliver the feels.
I loved how Elias’ personal journey unfolded in the film. And while it surprised me at first, I liked how the film handled his storyline. In a world where everybody judges and destroys, Elias’ friends had his back and it was a beautiful relationship to witness.
I loved that the characters each had different personalities which made for an interesting combo. They made it obvious to the audience that they were bonded more than their proximity to each other and the kids sold this idea with every scene.
Recognizing that the film hinged on the young cast was a great credit to director Maricel Cariaga. For starters, the way she wrote the screenplay was intended to play on this asset. She brilliantly set up the story by taking her time following the children’s day to day journey, making the audience laugh and care for them with mundane scenes, lulling them into a false sense or security until Cariaga reveals the ace up her sleeve — a heartbreaking twist that will wrench at the heart of cinemagoers who havr already invested love and emotion on the four characters.
It was masterful, a bit sadistic but well done.The way Cariaga blindsided audiences to the blow with the reveal plus a dramatic depiction of the homecoming using magnificent visuals and original music was a great touch.
The film does get preachy towards the end though as it rams the social commentary down the audiences throats. The ending frame makes it worthwhile though.
All in all, Children of the River was a heartwarming tale of friendship, young love, family and loyalty and these are all messages that resonate with audience. Bravo to the young cast, especially Noel Comia Jr. for an endearing performance that wins him the heart of the viewers, absolutely. If these four are the future of Philippine cinema, I am feeling very optimistic.