Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (5 out of 5)
Tuesday, 10/17/2006, 7:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema
Tagalog with English subtitles
IT’S NOT HARD to tell what sets 12-year-old Maxi apart from the other boys in his poor Filipino neighborhood. There’s the pronounced sashay as he makes his way through the streets, the spaghetti-string tank top he wears, or the pink headband with a flower that holds back his hair.
You might expect such a flamboyantly queer kid to be the center of a lot of abuse and rejection, but that’s not the case for Maxi. And that’s one of the things that makes The Blossoming of Maximo Olivieros such a joy to experience.
Maxi — short for the titular Maximo — enjoys the love and affection of a doting father and two older brothers, Boy and Bogs. His mother died some time ago, and now Maxi takes care of the cooking and cleaning, while the the grown men take care of the family business: a criminal operation centered on gambling and stolen cell phones.
Although everyone in his neighborhood seems to accept Maxi for who he his — he cheerfully helps the neighboring women keep track of their toddlers — not everything is perfect. Walking home late one night, he’s set upon by some thugs only to be rescued by Vincent, a new cop in the neighborhood with plans to end the rampant police corruption. Maxi falls hard for Vincent, setting into motion a chain of events that spell dire times for his family’s business.
Blossoming moves from a light and joyous beginning to a far darker tone as Maxi struggles between his loyalties to his family and his first love. While his brothers are not saints — Boy’s involvement in a local murder sets the police trap in motion and shames their father, who raised them as thieves, ”not a murderer” — their love for their little brother is never in doubt. Bogs is even willing to step into a big sister role when needed, asking Maxi to braid his hair to help pull his brother out of a funk.
There are a lot of contradictions at the heart of Blossoming, mainly that Maxi is one of the luckiest little queer kids in the world for having such a caring family, yet it’s that family’s own criminality that puts Maxi at risk of finding himself alone in a frightening world. Nathan Lopez turns in a suitably fabulous performance as Maxi, full of young boy gangliness and unfettered femininity. Whether he’s bursting with glee when stealing a quick kiss from his beloved or crying from the pressures put on him by circumstance, you’ll have no trouble believing in the flamboyant boy at the center of the story. — SB