An extraordinary film with “Ordinary People (Ang Pamliya Ordinaryo)” as its title, this is the movie that announced Filipino filmmaker Eduardo Roy Jr. (“Lola Igna”) as a major talent.
He takes us among the young, hustling homeless of Manila for a Filipino “Bicycle Thieves,” without the bikes. He gives teenagers Jane (Hasmine Kilip) and Aries (Ronwaldo Martin) a baby. And he shows us the consequences of children, broke and struggling children, having children of their own.
“What’ll we name him?” Aries wants to know (in Tagalog, with English subtitles).
“We’ll use BOTH our names,” Jane answers. Thus, “Baby Arjan” is introduced.
They sleep on the streets, or when they’re fighting, Jane stays with a friend or family member. Aries is 17 and all about the sex. Jane is a distracted 16, worried about the baby, needing the physical escape of her quickie-prone “husband” just as badly as he does.
Aries runs with a gang of four, little beggars who distract the marks while he and another old boy grab their iPhones, purses or wallets.
Roy shows us every crime seen in “Ordinary People” via CCTV — child dies in a hit and run accident, a purse is snatched at an ATM, a phone is grabbed in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
There’s even closed circuit footage of the major crime at the heart of the film. We’ve already seen the too-helpful transsexual Ertha (Moira Lang) flattering and cozying up to teen Jane. Ertha keeps baby clothes in her backpack, and is always “loaning” them to very young mothers she befriends.
Her joking/haggling over what Jane will owe (Jane tells her she’ll never be able to pay her back) finishes with a throw-away line Jane is too dazed and naive to comprehend.
“Why don’t you just sell me your baby for ₱10,000?”
It’s only later that Jane figures Ertha was serious.
“The transsexual stole my baby!”
Writer-director Roy creates tier upon tier of exploitation facing Jane and the short-tempered Aries as they try to recover their 30 day-old infant.
A visit to a police station to look at mugshot books includes an unspeakably cruel, leering “assault.” The supermarket where it happened may have video of the crime, but they’re more determined to show that “we’re not responsible” for what happened.
A radio station interview is cut off when a sexy teen model shows up for the next segment. And a TV piece on their plight is built on a reenactment that will be little help in tracking down Ertha and their baby.
The kids have to be street thieves just to survive among the predators above them on the food chain.
The performances are age-appropriate and poignant, the twists and turns an homage to Vittorio de Sica’s Italian neo-realism classic.
And writer-director Roy shows himself to be a De Sica, Spike Lee or Cuaron of the Philippines, an artist who points his camera at his world and makes us see it the way he does.
(Roy’s “Lola Igna” is just as good, and on Netflix)
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, sex, smoking, nudity
Cast: Hasmine Kilip, Ronwaldo Martin, Moira Lang
Credits: Written and directed by Eduardo Roy Jr. A Quantum Films/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:47