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Can a 12-year old lad who wishes he were a girl navigate the mean streets of Manila? Maxi cooks, cleans, and sews for his father and older brothers who are petty criminals. He's sweet, clever and hardworking, at ease with being gay, pinning a flower in his hair, swinging his hips when he walks, vamping with friends. He's seen adults hug and kiss and he's watched romantic movies, so on the verge of puberty, he develops a crush on Victor, a kindly young cop. Maxi's heart and loyalties are on a collision course: Victor is investigating crimes that lead him to Maxi's family. In the land of the morning, is there a place for this child of the sun returning? Written by
A moving family tragedy and a tale of (gay?) love and hate in the slums
Is Maxi Gay? Well, he dresses like a girl and has a crush on a hunky policeman. But as the story develops one has to wonder whether Maxi is actually a gay preteen or just a troubled boy in a difficult situation. Does it matter? Not really.
After the death of his mother due to an unknown illness Maxi has taken over her role in taking care of his two brothers and father, all petty thieves. The arrangement seems to work fine. Maxi delights in cooking and cleaning for his family and enjoys a playing Miss Phillipines with his "girl" friends. But everything changes when a hunky young cop arrives. Maxi develops a crush and is forced to choose between his family and his feelings for the cop. Needless to say thinks get complicated and even turn ugly and violent.
This film impressed me when I saw it at a screening at the International Filmfestival Rotterdam. There are faults but mainly the film is strong and well executed. The acting is impressive, although Maxi starts out a bit of a stereotypical screaming queen.
If anything the film is a bit too long, there are several moments that could be deleted without much effect. Also the quality of the picture and sound is understandably not up to western standards, although this does not distract from the story and I have seen much worse.
One of the questions I am left with is whether this accurately portrays Philipine's attitude towards (effeminate) homosexuality. If so that is to be commended, however it is hard to imagine such utter and complete tolerance, not only of Maxi but also of his friends. In a film with such a premise one sort of expects some exploration of the subject. However the lack thereof does not affect the story, it may even make it stronger.
I hope you will go see this movie, if you get the chance!
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