Kalel, 15: Movie Review

Powerful is the keyword when describing "Kalel, 15" and it imposes a reality no one would like to find themselves in. Even with its few shortcomings, this is a film that felt like it was able to accurately encapsulate the limited mind of a 15 year old kid and delivers an all-around thought-provoking experience.
Kalel (Elijah Canlas) finds out that he has HIV. Due to the controversy surrounding the sickness, he and his mother (Jaclyn Jose) decide that it is best to keep his sickness a secret not only from his own family but also from his schoolmates and friends. This is not as easy as it seems as Kalel is also in a relationship with one of his schoolmates. Struggling to cope with HIV mentally and physically, how can Kalel live a normal life when being normal itself means that he might pass on his sickness to his friends or loved ones? 
We never really find out how our main character Kalel contracts HIV. The film gives us an idea but never really the answer. And that was actually okay. Because the film focuses instead on the very important things - especially how a young mind would cope with a sickness that pretty much impacts his whole life moving forward. In the process the film also tackles basic stigmas and prejudices on HIV. Looking at the broader strokes, the film was a success providing at very thought-inducing and even moving film on HIV and the haphazard modern sex culture in the Philippines. But the film isn't perfect narratively and extremely limited when looked at more closely. In fact, one of our bigger issues with it was the film's preference on being too negative towards Kalel's overall situation  not only his HIV sickness but especially when it came to his stark situation and family background and the turnout of events for each of his parents and sibling. Another one is the very open ended ending. The film just suddenly ends abruptly and to be honest felt very incomplete overall. It felt like it was missing a closing act to really amplify its overall message. Visually and acting-wise, there were no surprises here. Both visuals (in black-and-white) and performances from the cast were powerful and stellar to say the least. Overall, what really won us over was its messaging and the effective way it was able to present its concepts and ideas in an authentic and believable lens.
Rating: 4 reels

Why you should watch it: 
- thought-provoking
- wonderful cinematography and acting

Why you shouldn't watch it: 
- the narrative had limitations and the ending felt abrupt
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