The four young teens at the center of Raya Martin’s new film provide a strong reason to smile in this fun and invigorating coming-of-age comedy.
Dir. Raya Martin
2020 | Philippines | Comedy/Drama | 99 mins | 1.78:1 | Tagalog & English
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some sexual references
Cast: Noel Comia Jr., Agot Isidro, Moi Marcampo
Plot: Only something truly earthshaking can keep four 13-year-olds away from their computer games: the eruption of a volcano, the first feelings of falling in love, the dreaded initiation into manhood.
Awards: Nom. for Crystal Bear – Generation Kplus (Berlinale)
International Sales: TVCO
Subject Matter: Light – Coming-of-Age, Teenage-hood
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
With a title that sounds like a natural marketing hook, Death of Nintendo is Filipino director Raya Martin’s latest feature that premiered at the Berlinale under the Generation Kplus section. Some have remarked that the film could be turned into a continuing series, considering how likeable the four young teens at its centre are.
Well, I kinda feel the same way as at the heart of Martin’s work about the depiction of an era (the early 1990s) where kids play Nintendo games or have fun outdoors lies a coming-of-age movie that very much gives us an unfiltered view of growing up together with best buds.
The three boys in the group muse about chasing girls, getting the latest Playboy magazine to self-pleasure to, hope to man up against bullies, but mostly they are trying to survive the sweltering hot weather and making their time count during the summer break, including working around restrictions set by their parents.
As the director puts it when trying to pitch the project, Death of Nintendo is Stand by Me with circumcisions. The only (tomboyish) girl in the group, a sister to one of the boys, has a secret crush on another in the group.
Quiet but resolute, she is the center of gravity, giving the quartet an interesting dynamic that manages to engage independently of the narrative, which tends to fall back to the subgenre’s familiar themes such as rebelliousness versus responsibility.
Martin brings everything together as a comedy that is fun and invigorating to watch, occasionally accompanied by old-school Nintendo-style sound effects. Every triumph seems like a conquest; every slip seems like a disaster.
These children will need to learn to pick themselves up and temper their expectations of what life might bring to them, but Martin also wants us to enjoy their exploits. After all, we were pubescent once, at the cusp of discovering a mighty lot about ourselves, even if it was only after one draining summer.