The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros(2005)
, directed by Auraeus Solito
I ran across this at the library, and picked it up because I didn’t have anything else to watch really. I had my doubts about it, but thought I’d check it out nonetheless. I was surprised to find that I actually liked this movie very much.
Here is a review from Amazon.com that at least covers the basic plot:
THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS tells the story of Maxi (Nathan Lopez) a gay, pre-teen growing up in the slums of Manila, who is deeply loyal to his family of petty thieves. His world revolves around his father and two brothers, who love and protect him in return for Maxi’s devotion to completing domestic chores and covering their tracks when they commit crimes. When Maxi meets Victor (JR Valentin) a well-meaning, handsome policeman, the two become fast friends and Maxi begins to learn that he can have a better life, which soon incurs the ire and disapproval of Maxi s family.
What this review doesn’t tell you though are the most interesting aspects of the film. First, Maxi’s gayness is never criticized in the film. Although he is teased a little by his family for being so girlish, it is all meant in good fun, and it is clear that they love him for who he is, but not for or in spite of his emerging sexuality. Throughout the entire film, the words gay, homosexual, or faggot are never used, and everyone, including his neighbors and friends, accept Maxi as he is. His gayness is not a big deal. (Seems odd in a nation that is heavily Catholic.) But it is the love and dedication of these family members that I find especially notable and inspiring. This is not something you see a lot of in western cinema (or, IMO, in a lot of real families here, either).
Secondly, there is also a real cultural revelation in this movie for us Westerners, too. Like I said, everyone accepts Maxi for who he is, and when he comes to the police station to see Victor and bring him the lunch he made, the other cops tease him a little, but nobody makes a big deal out of Maxi’s affection for Victor. And most importantly, nobody sees anything untoward or inappropriate in the (obviously non-sexual) relationship between Maxi and Victor. Nobody (including the director) made it into something dirty, scandalous, or verboten (as prudes and dirty-minded Christians are wont to do). That could not have been so easily done in the states. Hollywood could have certainly not handled that kind of thematic development. Even Maxi’s father doesn’t seem mind that Maxi seems to like Victor so much, except for the fact that he is a cop. And he only forbids Maxi from seeing Victor once Victor starts looking too closely into his family’s criminal lifestyle.
I also want to note that nobody in this movie was inherently bad or evil. In spite of being thieves, Maxi’s family seemed like pretty decent people. They were very likeable, and you certainly didn’t hate them outright. And even Victor, who is a good cop, makes a pretty bad mistake when he tries to get Maxi to squeal on his family, essentially forcing Maxi to choose between him and his family, a decision a 12-year-old boy shouldn’t have to make. Western cinema could not have pulled this off as well, I think. We like our villains absolute. We want to be certain of our dislike or hatred, and we want our morals to be absolute. Ambivalence is not something we readily embrace.
Lastly, this movie did what all important stories must do: 1.) Introduce a character and his lifestyle, 2.) Create or introduce a conflict of some kind, something to turn his world upside down, and 3.) Have the character overcome the conflict and come out at the end transformed into something better than when the story started out. Or, simply put: empathy – conflict – conquest – transformation. That is, IMO, the basic formula for good story telling. If a director or writer fails at this (as they sometimes do), then it isn’t a powerful story.
That’s not an entire synopsis of the movie, nor have I included every observation, but I don’t want to spoil the entire film for anyone.
I was really quite pleased with how this film was produced, the subject matter, and how the director never tried to moralize the events. He simply told a story. This is also the first movie I’ve ever seen from the Philippines, so that was nice, too.
Exclusive Interview with Auraeus Solito on "The Blossoming of Maxim...