Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005) Film Review
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros
Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths
Aureaus Solito’s latest homegrown effort has been as resilient as its young protagonist, 12-year-old Maxi (Nathan Lopez) in its persistance to get a release. His coming to terms with his family and his first romantic crush has found appeal by being hard working, endearing in tone and resolutely fresh and individual. Scooping a Glass Bear and a Teddy in Berlin and a Grand Jury nomination at Sundance last year has helped turn heads as well.
Filmed entirely in the back streets of Solito’s native Manila, his opening shots of the flotsam and jetsam of human detritus eddying around the harbour waters are hardly an inventive presaging of the story to come. But when he then focuses in on young Maxi, his father (Soliman Cruz) and two older brothers, any fears that Solito is just painting by numbers are soon dispelled.
Maxi is a charming, charismatic boy who lives with his family in cramped, baisc and sweaty digs. He does all the cooking, cleaning and general housework while the older men steal and scam a day-to-day living. The men’s complete acceptance of Maxi’s role and his highly effeminate, mincing demeanour may seem at first a little incongruous to those more used to mainstream domestic portrayals. But the sincerity of both the performances, especially from young Lopez, and the style in which Solito captures them soon establishes the normality of their situation, which is further reinforced by various episodes with Maxi’s similarly playfully camp friends.
The affection between Maximo and his low-rent criminal father and brothers is touchingly portrayed. They are clearly a devoted family and we understand that their deadly thieving and thuggery is a means of survival in their poverty-stricken neighbourhood, as does Maxi, although it scares and pains him.
However, when a new, righteous policeman (JR Valentin) arrives on the scene it’s not long before his name is mud in the Oliveros household – for all but Maxi. Despite himself Maxi develops his first full-on crush for the gentle lawman and is soon negotiating the dizzying heights and sickening lows of first love, as well as shopping lists and dangerous family politics.
Overall, this is a tender, temperately dramatic look at a young person exploring his burgeoning feelings and adolescent sexuality, which Solito never allows to become mawkish or unconvincing. He treads a considered line so that there is no sexualising of his prepubescent lead whilst not being disingenuous to the feelings that boy is experiencing. His zero-budget is at times a little evident but this never detracts from the story and indeed adds to the colourful, earthy spices of the humid Manila streets. In amongst these it’s the unforced performances, at times humourous, at times moving, that render drama and conviction from the realistic and unsophisticated script. A charming film of unexpected heart.Reviewed on: 11 Apr 2007
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