Kalel, 15

Watch Kalel, 15

"15 years old. Son of a priest. HIV positive."
  • 2019
  • 1 hr 45 min
  • 7.1  (482)

Kalel, 15 is a compelling and provocative Filipino drama film directed by Jun Lana and released in 2019. The movie delves deep into the life and struggles of its titular character, Kalel, portrayed with a stunning depth and maturity by Elijah Canlas, a young actor who has been gaining recognition for his craft in the Philippine cinema.

Set against the backdrop of contemporary Philippine society, the film navigates the sensitive and complex issues of youth, sexual exploration, and the harsh realities of living with HIV. What makes this narrative particularly poignant is its focus on Kalel, just 15 years old, as he grapples with the news of his diagnosis.

The story begins with Kalel's everyday life, which is far from ordinary. Son of an absent politician father and a religious mother, played by the award-winning actress Jaclyn Jose, Kalel finds himself caught in a web of familial expectations and societal pressures. He discovers his HIV-positive status, a revelation that sends shockwaves through his young life. The society around Kalel, fraught with ignorance and prejudice regarding HIV and AIDS, provides little to no support for him.

Veteran actor Eddie Garcia delivers a memorable performance in one of his final roles before his passing. While his character serves as a connective tissue to the larger world outside of Kalel's immediate family, the relationship dynamics portrayed raise questions about generational differences and the influence of a patriarchal figure in the grand scheme of things.

The storytelling is raw and unfiltered, painting a candid portrait of an adolescent on the brink of a personal crisis. Lana's direction takes audiences through the streets of Manila, capturing the grit of the city as well as the claustrophobic feel of Kalel's life. Cinematography plays a crucial role in the film; the camera work functions almost as an additional character, bringing a level of intimacy to the narrative that draws viewers into the protagonist's inner world.

Kalel, 15 does not shy away from the darker aspects of its story. The film addresses the stigma associated with HIV, not just from strangers but within one's own family and circle of friends. It captures the complexities of Kalel's relationships, both platonic and romantic, and how they are impacted by his diagnosis. His interactions with peers and authority figures alike are tinged with an underlying tension, underscoring the vulnerability and isolation one can feel when dealing with a condition that is often misunderstood by society.

Screenwriter Lana also explores the role of technology and social media in the young lives of today's society. Digital communication serves as both a bridge and a barrier for Kalel, allowing him to connect with others while also exposing him to the harsh judgments and toxic behaviors online. Through nuanced storytelling, the film examines the duality of these modern tools: their power to bring together and their equally potent capacity to alienate.

One of the more quietly disturbing aspects of Kalel, 15 is the portrayal of Kalel's sexual awakening, which is intertwined with his illness. The film doesn't shy away from confronting the reality of teenagers navigating their sexuality and the associated risks, something that is often glossed over or sensationalized in mainstream cinema. Here, however, it's addressed with a deft hand and a realism that's both sobering and empathetic.

Throughout the narrative, the themes of innocence lost and the premature end of childhood are evident. Kalel, bearing the weight of his diagnosis, is compelled to confront adult issues while still grappling with the tumultuous stage of adolescence. The juxtaposition of his internal battle with the external chaos of his environment makes for a heart-wrenching journey that viewers are unlikely to forget.

While the film is undeniably Filipino in its setting, cultural nuances, and language, the universality of its themes resonate on a global scale. It draws attention to the plight of many young individuals facing similar challenges and the need for greater understanding, compassion, and proper education regarding HIV/AIDS.

Kalel, 15 is an important film not only for its artistic merits but also for the conversations it sparks. By highlighting the life of this one young boy, the movie magnifies the urgent issues of health, human rights, and the fragility of youth in the face of societal ignorance. Without resorting to melodrama, the film succeeds in evoking a profound sense of empathy and prompting a much-needed discussion about how these matters are approached both in the Philippines and around the world.

Kalel, 15
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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 45 min
  • IMDB Rating
    7.1  (482)