Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Some films are so heavy they leave you feeling crushed on the way out of the foyer. This is one of those films. It also has an undercarriage of spikes.

The setting is a rundown cinema in the Phillippines. The word FAMILY is picked out in letters on its side, but despite being run by the Pineda clan, patrons won't find the likes of Shrek and Bambi inside. Instead, they show a steady stream of porn films and the patrons are more interested in being "serviced" by the rent boys who work there than broadening their cinematic horizons.

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Although fully in the know about the goings on under their roof, the family, to all intents, is oblivious, as the matriarch, Mama Flor (Gina Pareno), prepares a bigamy case against her husband and her daughter dreams of romance with her cousin, while assorted members of their extended family come and go, usually up and down the cinema's central staircase in audience-unfriendly, motion sickness-inducing camera swoops that, essentially, add little to the plot.

The parallels which director Brillante Mendoza seems to be striving for are less than inspiring. From a family member dealing with a boil on his bum, which one cannot help but suspect is a physical ailment that is supposed to mirror his inability to cope with his girlfriend's pregnancy, to the contrast between the moralising aspect of Mama's case against her husband with the Pinedas indifference to what goes on under their roof.

Mendoza is almost too eager to shock. Fellatio, boil burning and blocked toilets so filthy the stench almost rises from the screen, would, on their own, or alongside a deeper character study, be memorably gritty. Here, they feel manipulative, despite the observational camerawork.

Pareno puts in a memorable performance and it is in her scenes that Mendoza gets the best mileage between personal breakdown and societal filth. Despite this and a solid supporting cast, the very number of characters involved leaves the plotlines strung out and little emotion for the audience to cling to.

Reviewed on: 25 Sep 2008
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Drama about a family's day-to-day struggle to survive in the Philippines.

Director: Brillante Mendoza

Writer: Armando Lao, Boots Agbayani Pastor

Starring: Gina PareƱo, Dan Alvaro, Mercedes Cabral, Julio Diaz, Bobby Jerome Go, Roxanne Jordan, Jacklyn Jose, Kristoffer King, Coco Martin

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Philippines, France


New York 2008

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