““There are plenty of scenes that are meaningless.
duardo Roy, Jr. of Quick Change fame now brings us to the streets of Manila to tell the story of two homeless and ordinary teens, Jane (Hasmine Killip) and Aries (Ronwaldo Martin, Coco’s brother), in 2016 Cinemalaya Best Picture, the indie film Pamilya Ordinaryo.
Jane and Aries are brand new parents to their son Arjan. When Baby Arjan (who looks way too sparkling clean for a baby urchin) is kidnapped, we follow the couple in their long, long search.
It is a very long and boring search.
For a mother who has just lost a child, Jane lacks that convincing panic and distress. Most of the time, it feels like she just lost her favorite shirt. Sure, her anguish sparks from time to time, but it is inconsistent, which makes it difficult to sympathize with her.
For instance, when the couple is at the gates of the subdivision where Arjan is supposed to be and Jane and Aries are not allowed to enter, Jane’s disappointment resembles that of someone who tried, accidentally, opening a locked entrance door to McDonald’s. She’s that close to getting her baby back, yet she is not agitated? Worse, when she finally sees Aries walking to her with a carrier basket, which is supposed to be holding the long-lost baby, Jane is oddly composed; no displays of intense relief or overwhelming emotion that her baby has been “found.” It’s as if Aries is carrying a lump of wood.
There are too many unrealistic details; unnatural reactions, weird character behavior, absurd scenes (Aries easily escaping from the clutches of three men—with the stolen purse still in his hand?). Also, there are plenty of scenes that are meaningless, such as lengthy shots of street kids goofing around, evoking nothing, even poetic beauty.
Sure, Jane and Aries are dressed like your everyday street urchins: dirty, sniffing rugby, sleeping on cardboards, thieving and cussing like there’s no tomorrow—but it ends there. They are mere caricatures who make an obvious effort to shout dirty words for authenticity. They are simply characters based on a distant and superficial observation of street children.
It is kidnapper Ertha (Moira Lang) that is arresting; her brief role provides the most multilayered, insightful and natural performance in the entire film.
Pamilya Ordinaryo, which surprisingly nabbed awards abroad (New York, Tokyo, Portugal, Poland, Vietnam, among others), may have its effectively humorous moments, but overall it is a tedious and frustrating piece due to its inaccurate direction, triviality and complete lack of emotional connection. It offers no insight beyond what we can normally observe in our daily commute. Also, baby-snatching, teenage pregnancy, injustice, harassment and media exploitation can happen not only to street urchins. Why, then, do Aries and Jane have to be street children? Hence, it is poverty porn at its best.
Alas, Aries and Jane’s ordinary story could have been unforgettable if only it were authentic, created with realistic details, and filled with richly developed characters. What did resonate in me after watching the movie? Nothing but Jane and Aries’ empty and incessant yelling and swearing echoing in my brain.
2 out of 5 stars
Showing at Cinema ‘76