Growing up, a close friend of mine acted in stark contrast to the rest of the boys. He always seemed happier, and was more content in being dissimilar to us when it came to our whims and petty discords that resulted from our passionate disagreements on our favoured sports. His infectious enthusiasm and sunny aura was well received by everyone who knew him, making him instantly popular among our circle of friends. And despite the occasional whisperings within the group of parents of his oddly flamboyant nature that resulted from his joie de vivre, nobody saw anything sinister or unwholesome about him in the least. Even as there was an unstated opinion that he was gay, something we suspected he knew as well, there was always a profound sense of acceptance that existed on a purely human level at that age.
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros is a confrontational family drama that resonates with sociopolitical heft. While its 12 year-old protagonist, the lively and spirited Maxi (Nathan Lopez) enjoys the ephemeral joys of childhood, his older brothers and widowed father adhere to the essential criminal elements of their slum district in Manila to make ends meet. Maxi, a school dropout, is not unlike the friend I told you about. They share a similar zest for life, happy in their own pursuits and with a precocious sense of self.
Maxi knows his family needs him to step up, as he performs the duties that are usually synonymous with that of a mother or sister. He cleans, cooks and fusses over the grown-ups in the family, something his family adores about him. They also dont see anything wrong with Maxis cross-dressing, androgynous appearances that are often followed with ostentatious sashays through imaginary catwalks. Although, the film endears to us a very young titular character that is gay in all sense of the word, the one thing that sticks to us is the intense devotion shared within his family unit.
From its opening shot of establishing striking colours amidst a canvas of squalor, we are supposed to consider Maxis presence as a splash of mirth in the murky underbelly that exists in the destitution of his surroundings of ambiguous ideals and cutthroat subsistence. No wonder then, when Maxi becomes enamoured with a saviour-like policeman, Victor (J R Valentin), a hopeful beacon of right in a world of wrongs. The film insists on showing this as Maxis first love, not just a mere infatuation. In addition to its obvious taboos relating to the ages involved, it even uses traditional cinematic conventions of using strife at home to convey the forbidden affections between the cop and the robbers kin.
Director Auraeus Solito is especially kind in his feature debut, one that unforgivingly invokes the volatile subject matter of pre-teen sexuality. He situates the film in a fine way by servicing his characters before the big ideas that one tends to walk away with, from films of such daring. And he gratefully steers clear from the awkwardness of similarly themed films such as the kitschy romance shared between its young leads in the sickeningly saccharine, Little Manhattan and the morbidly obtrusive Mysterious Skin.