A micro-budgeted pop musical set in a Bay Area suburb better known for its miles of cemeteries than its thriving youth culture, this scrappy little film about post-high-school life is a low-key charmer.
Aspiring actor sorry, thespian Billy (Jake Moreno), ebullient Maribel (L.A. Renigen) and restless, semi-closeted Rodel (H.P. Mendoza, the film's composer, lyricist and scenarist) have been best friends since they were kids, and they're all looking forward to the moment their real lives begin. But two weeks out of high school, nothing much has started: Billy has a summer job at a men's store and has just auditioned for a part in a community-theater production of Friend Joseph. Rodel wants to write but is constantly losing the scraps of paper on which he scribbles his ideas. Maribel is bursting with energy, but there's really nothing to do in Colma except crash college parties and hang around. They all still live at home, and Maribel is the only one who even has a car. And much to their surprise, Rodel, Billy and Maribel find that their newfound freedom is exposing the fault lines in their relationships; as the summer drags on, they actually grow farther apart rather than closer together.
Unlike the blandly mainstream HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL (2006), COLMA unfolds in a casually multiracial world of boredom, aimlessness and anxiety about what the future holds; it would feel painfully real if it weren't for the peppy songs that lend a certain self-deprecating self-awareness to the angst. Maribel and Rodel know when they're being drama queens, and they never hesitate to call Billy on his relentless obsessing about his "craft" and the ex-girlfriend who broke his heart. Mendoza's 13 original numbers beginning with the mordantly up-tempo "Colma Stays" provide the slender story with structure, and overall the songs are surprisingly catchy despite the bare-bones music production and the fact that of the leads, only Renigen has a standout voice. Smoothly directed by Richard Wong, the film's upstart charm and DIY inventiveness offset the evident budgetary constraints.
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