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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 14, 2016

"Pamilya Ordinaryo” Movie Review: A Naturalistic No-Holds-Barred Depiction Of The Harrowing Lives Of Marginalized Street Children

"Pamilya Ordinaryo" is the opposite of “Tuos” and “Kusina” that are both stylized art films. This one is very raw and naturalistic in its no-holds-barred depiction of the harrowing lives of street children, something that “Hamog” also attempted to do as a Cinema One entry last year. But whereas “Hamog” loses coherence along the way and becomes a movie about a child murderer who poisons all the people around her, “Pamilya Ordinaryo” has a better grip on its material.

One of the child actors who played an ill fated street kid in “Hamog” is also in “Pamilya Ordinaryo”, which is also the opposite of an escapist feel good movie. It’s not uplifting but harsh and depressing in its unblinking, very realistic look at the sordidness of life for marginalized people. It also has no happy ending.

As a matter of fact, it has no ending at all, so those who prefer films with satisfying conclusions for the lead characters will surely be disappointed when the screen suddenly goes black and we have no clue what will happen to the two leads. Will they ever get their own child back? Will they be apprehended for attempting to kidnap another baby? You just have to figure out your own conclusions.

The film follows the lives of Aries (Ronwaldo Martin) and Jane (Hasmine Killip). He’s 17, she’s 16 and they just had a baby, Arjan. They live on the sidewalk of the Metropolitan Museum and when they hump each other, they just cover themselves with a blanket, in full view of people passing by. Not much is known about them, except that Jane has an irresponsible mom (Maria Isabel Lopez) whose lover deflowered her when she was 14. In the case of Aries, there’s no backstory at all whatsoever.

They’re both petty thieves, snatching bags, cellphones, stealing wallets, shoplifting. In other words, they’re bad people, but somehow, you sympathize with them because they are just victims of poverty, of irresponsible parents, of an uncaring society. Growing up unschooled, malnourished, struggling for survival in a very harsh environment and with no respectable authority figure to teach them good values, how can you expect them not to end up as problems of society, “mga salot ng lipunan”? Obviously, life is hopeless for these kids who lead doomed lives on a dead end street where every day is a struggle for survival.

After their baby is kidnapped by an ugly cross-dressing gay with an acne-scarred face, who Jane thought would help her, we then join them in their journey to search for their baby, echoing what happens in de Sica’s classic neo-realist masterpiece, “The Bicycle Thief”, where we follow a father and his son in their search for their stolen bicycle. Jane goes to the police but the police chief (Menggie Cobarrubias) turns out to be a pervert who only humiliates and molests her, forcing her to show him her lactating breasts.They ask the help of the barangay captain but this, too, is futile.

A woman who says she’s the mother of the kidnapper asks money from them allegedly to help them get back their child. A caller tells them their baby is in a certain address but it turns out to be a hoax. Even the media exploit them and interview them, only to lose the remaining photos of their baby.

You know all the situations portrayed in this film are grounded on reality, as shown on the found footage taken from CCTV the director resorts to every now and then for a docu-drama effect. We regularly see these kids among the homeless people who live on “bangketas”, “karitons”, makeshift shanties under flyovers and bridges and, admit it or not, we have become oblivious, even apathetic to them.

For many of us, they are just a nuisance who we try to erase from our consciousness and we wish would just go away, especially when they approach our cars while we’re waiting for the traffic light to change and ask for alms: “Pangkain lang po.” Of all the films we’ve seen this year so far, this is the one that hits us with the most shattering impact.
Aries and Jane are not the usual romcom characters you immediately get to love and care for. They’re dirty and Jane looks like an exotic native with her thick protruding lips. We see them sniffing rugby, having sex, cursing and fighting and insulting and shouting at each other all the time and they’re not at all lovable. They’re very distressing, and that’s the point of this social significant film. It aims to discomfiture us and prick our jaded, calloused conscience to make us realize that we should all do something to be of help.

What makes the film even more affecting is the knockout performances of its leads. They’re consistently credible and persuasive all throughout. Hasmine Killip seems to have been born for the role. She’s not acting at all, she embodies the essence of Jane. In the ends, she shows that despite the dehumanizing experiences she went through in her young life, she remains human at heart when she insists that they return they baby got because “hindi yan ang anak ko”.

Ronwaldo looks every inch the grimy smelly street kid he plays, even in the way he delivers his lines with his high pitched voice. He seems like destined to be the quintessential indie actor, after appearing here and in “Ari, My Life with the King”, “Laut” and “Tuos”. He’ll be good for character roles as he doesn’t have the oozing charisma and star quality of his half brother, Coco. Also, Coco is not quite tall and Ronwaldo is even more vertically challenged.

“Pamilya Ordinaryo” is the third film of writer-director Eduardo Roy. All his works carry valid social messages. “Bahay Bata”, with its “lakad school of acting” showing Diana Zubiri just walking and walking and walking, is actually about the need for responsible family planning and more serviceable government hospitals. “Quick Change” is about the lives of transgenders who resort to cheap illegal cosmetic procedures to beautify themselves. But the best so far is “Pamilya Ordinaryo”, an unembroidered chronicle of the ordeals an impoverished teenage couple goes through. It’s the kind of film that would win awards in international film festivals.