“The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros”

In the Slums

Amos Lassen

Soon to be seen at the Arkansas LGBT Film Festival is “The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros”, a new film from the Philippines. Deep in drama and with plenty of laughs, it is a beautiful film. It is frank and honest and will probably change the way you look at poverty, at gay people, at the nature of families and love and at the love

of parent and child, sibling and sibling.

Is Maximo Oliveros gay? He dresses like a girl and has a crush on a good looking policeman. As we get deeper into the film, we question whether he is gay or just troubled.

When Maxi’s mother dies due to an unknown illness, he takes over seeing to his two brothers ad his father—all of the petty thieves. Everything seems to be working just fine until a young cop appears. Maxi becomes enamored of him and must choose between his feelings for the cop and his family. As can be expected, things get both ugly and violent.

Director Aureus Solito and screenplay writer Michiko Yamamoto give us a beautiful coming of age story. Nathan Lopez as Maximo Oliveros is a wonderful young actor and the treatment of him is unique and interesting. Whether or not he is gay is not an issue in the movie. There are elements of camp but in fair amounts and everything in the movie works because it is so well done. The filmmakers know when to pull back ad never let anything get too sensitive or emotional. Melodrama is avoided.

What the film shows us is that an effeminate boy can exist in the slums and have a peaceful existence. Even with the tremendous influence of the Roman Catholic church, the general mood of the Philippines lies somewhere between tolerance, amusement and acceptance.

The homoeroticism of the film is handled with great sensitivity. There is more a sense of hero worship between Maxi and the cop than sexuality. The people exhibit true caring rather than homophobia and there is a sense of ambiguity in the sexuality of the film and in JR Valentin’s portrayal of the cop. There are scenes between the two that are highly charged and one especially that could be interpreted as pedophilia were it not so beautifully handled. The ending satisfies in every way.

Are puppy love, unrequited love, familial obligations and economic pressures necessarily gay? I don’t think they are.

The streets of Manila are intriguing as photographed here as are the tensions among the principal characters. Here is a marginal family that exhibits loving and tender feelings.

Again I must cite Nathan Lopez for his performance. He has created a memorable character that will break your heart. His sensitivity, warmth and humor are astounding.

The subtlety of the film does not have the usual histrionics found in most films like this. It is the rawness and harshness of the film that stays with you.

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