Cinemalaya review: Gen Z angst simmers in suspenseful 'Blue Room'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Aug 12 2022 12:50 PM

 A scene from 'Blue Room'
A scene from 'Blue Room'

Troy Rodriguez (Elijah Canlas) is the front man of an up-and-coming indie rock band called Rebel Rebel. His band mates include smart sensible Rocky Montinola (Nourijune) on bass guitar, working student Christian Lagdameo (Leoni Jin) on lead guitar and bitter 18-year old Chigz Montero (Harvey Bautista) on drums. 

One fateful night, they were joined by one former band member Anton Lorenzana (juan karlos), who just came back home from a long vacation. Things were not particularly going well for them that night, but things were about to take even darker turn when their drive home was interrupted by policemen manning a checkpoint.

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The lead ensemble was a young and impressive ensemble of raw natural talent. Elijah Canlas is already an acclaimed actor. Juan Karlos Labajo, now stylized as juan karlos, is more known as the singer of hit song "Buwan." Harvey Bautista was a child actor, now transitioning into mature roles. Making their screen debuts are Nourijune (a.k.a. UP theater actress Nour Hooshmand) and Keoni Jin (member of alt-rock band the Revisors).

Playing the policemen who made that night a veritable nightmare for the young people were: Bombi Plata (as the hot-headed PO2 Santiago), Jericho Arceo (as the rogue PO1 Toledo) and the ubiquitous Soliman Cruz (as the perversely dirty station chief SPO3 Delgado). These three actors were so good at being bad cops, they inspire fear, indignation and anger. At the same time, they also provide some moments of uneasy black humor. 

In a remarkably auspicious directorial debut, Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan developed her story with an escalating sense of unsettling suspense and simmering Gen Z angst. The climax was met with loud spontaneous applause in the screening I caught. 

The screenplay, co-written by Dagñalan with Siege Ledesma, was well-plotted, tautly streamlined, with pointed, pertinent social commentary. She made us feel the liberating spirit of the indie music scene, as well as stuffy claustrophobia of corruption. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."