The first shot of PAMILYA ORDINARYO (2016) sets up the theme for its audiences and its characters. A high angle B&W shot from a surveillance camera silently records a group of people living on the streets of Manila on an ordinary day. We watch the common people in their common actions and we see them in a perspective from which we couldn’t care less, until when a young child gets hit by a vehicle. This is when the film grabs our attention. It is at this point when we start to see them as human – flesh and blood screaming through this silent shot. In these first few minutes of the film, Director Eduardo Roy Jr. manages to establish the humanity of the characters that he is about to introduce.
And then we meet Aries and Jane, two beginning teenage parents who are thriving on the streets, trying to make a living by stealing in order to build a family. They argue, the make love, and they take care of Baby Arjay. But fortune changes when Baby Arjay gets kidnapped and Aries and Jane find ways on how they could get their newborn back.
For one, PAMILYA ORDINARYO is anything but ordinary. Its screen screams with emotion and its characters overflow with painful realisms. It’s like watching Vittorio de Sica’s THE BICYCLE THIEF (1948) all over again. It’s actually too real that you can imagine yourself smelling the characters, feeling their sticky sweats but embracing them nonetheless. That’s the thing with Roy. Like in his other films, he manages to deliver not just a story but also the spirit within it. Consider his QUICK CHANGE (2013) where he captures both Dorina’s story and the pains that come with it. In PAMILYA, Roy takes charge through a handheld as he follows Aries and Jane in their journey, and soon enough we share their brief joys, their griefs and their hope.
Ronwaldo Martin plays Aries, the energetic new young father to Baby Arjay with pouring sensibility and matchless technique. He is stunningly real in his loudness and most sincere on screen in his silence. Hasmine Kilip as Jane is as extraordinary as the grieving mother and a helpless wife. She attracts her audiences with seeming earnestness and blends with Martin’s undeniable talent with equal method. Worthy to mention too, are Sue Prado as the equally ruthless, yet faithful friend to Jane; and Maria Isabel Lopez as Jane’s estranged mother, who is just at an arm’s length yet neglecting.
Like in its opening shot, Roy continues to make use of shots from different surveillance cameras, occasionally quieting the setting and the characters, consequently deafening us. Through its high angle shots, Aries and Jane grow more hopeless in their search and more vulnerable in their circumstance. And it is also through these shot that we begin to care more, however from a helpless distance.
It is a simple, yet a moving film. Though arguably springing from a melodrama, it bravely touches on suspense and slowly builds various themes on neglect, hope, and responsibility amidst a prejudiced society. The film doesn’t delve on the character’s moralities, nor does it judge their choices and motivations. What it does is to simply present a compelling narrative of two new parents with a harrowing task that keeps them together. Yes, they continue to fight, bite and loathe each other, but their love for Baby Arjay binds the two innocents that if you’ll only look more closely, you’ll feel and see the love.
Though we just see Aries and Jane from a safe distance, the film still manages to bring forth its real pains and varying emotions. That, I think, is what makes PAMILYA ultimately powerful. Through its scenes, we begin to see the nameless people we normally look at (probably in B&W) and brush off in passing. It is film that pushes us to experience the discomfort of the people we usually turn a blind eye on. It is a work that moves us from I-It to I-You (if you get my drift).
Thus, by probably taking his inspiration from Brocka’s MAYNILA SA MGA KUKO NG LIWANAG (1975), or Bernal’s in his MANILA BY NIGHT (1980), Roy wonderfully controls our empathy that we end up embracing even the unembraceable, and that – in itself – takes it beyond the ordinary.
4.5 Stars out of 5.
P.S. I heard that there’s going to be a commercial run of PAMILYA by month’s end. Don’t miss this one. Lalo na kung estudyante kita. We’ll be tackling Italian Neorealism in September. This is a good start.