August 13, 2016
Of the four Cinemalaya films I had seen so far, this one has got to be the shoo-in for Audience Choice award. All its screenings at the CCP have been sold out in advance. Its screening this afternoon at the Trinoma Cinema 2 was a blockbuster. There are no big names in the lead cast so perhaps its popularity has got to be from positive word of mouth. Its trailer alone already packed quite a punch when it went viral on social media.
Aries is 17 years old. Jane is 16 years old. They live by themselves on the dingy streets of Quiapo in Manila. They are the parents of a baby boy they named Arjan, who was just less than a month old. An intrusive gay "benefactress" named Ertha entered their lives and threw them a curveball they never saw coming. The already messed-up lives of Aries and Jane were thrown into further disarray as their fledgling parenthood are put to the ultimate test.
Ronwaldo Martin is following the lead of his elder half-brother and mainstream superstar Coco Martin who also got his start in indie films. In this Cinemalaya alone, the younger Martin is in two feature films in competition, this one and "Tuos" with Nora Aunor. His previous film where he also played lead "Ari: My Live with a King" is also on being showed under the "Festivals Best" program. His Aries is brusque, lusty and rough, just as you would expect a boy living on the street to act.
Hasmine Killip is so new that I could not come up anything about her acting background. Yet here she is carrying this whole film so ably on her shoulders as Jane. Most of the big dramatic moments were hers and she faced them boldly and nailed them head on. Those harrowing scenes of hers walking around outside the grocery, or those uncomfortable moments she had talking to the sleazy policeman, or that heartbreaking scene of her looking through the contents of a stolen bag -- all so naturally poignant as portrayed.
The starkly realistic performances of Ronwaldo Martin and Hasmine Killip in their breakthrough roles as Aries and Jane should be the frontrunners in the race for Lead Actor and Actress. Veterans like Lou Veloso, Allen Dizon, Judy Ann Santos and even Nora Aunor herself face tough competition from these two youngsters. They actually look like the street urchins we see on the grimy sidewalks everyday. It was as if they were not acting at all. I think it is safe to say we would be seeing more of them both in more indie films in the future.
Director Eduardo Roy Jr. creates a masterpiece of cinema verite with this feature. All the while as we watch these two foolishly callow kids trying to survive on the tough streets, we feel we are right there with them, inhaling the same grime and stench and rugby with them. Those silent CCTV footage type sequences were effectively eerie and entrancing in its documentation of criminal activity. Veteran character actors Maria Isabel Lopez, Moira Lang, Erlinda Villalobos, Menggie Cobarrubias effectively portray various despicable vultures, shamelessly picking on the helpless.
On the debit side, I thought the whole sequence set in a subdivision outside Manila made the film feel a bit too long and was unnecessarily anticlimactic in my opinion. Anyhow, overall, "Pamilya Ordinaryo" remains to be a sobering look at the plight of teenage parents on the streets. We know there are quite a number of youth out there on the real streets in the same exact boat as Aries and Jane. In this movie though, we won't be able to look away. 8/10.
*** UPDATE (08/14/16): Congratulations for the #Cinemalaya2016 Awards won by Pamilya Ordinaryo: Best Film, NETPAC Award, Best Director: Eduardo Roy Jr., Best Actress: Hasmine Killip and Best Editing.