Just like the flower in the opening scenes, 12-year-old Maxi is a beautiful accent in the gritty underworld on the outskirts of Manila, where he lives. Living with his outlaw father and two older brothers, Maxi dutifully infuses everything he does for them with love. From cooking and sewing to braiding his brother’s hair, Maxi fulfils the role of dalaga for his family, living as a young lady in the absence of femininity and their deceased mother. We follow Maxi through his glowing and textured world of shopping, reenacting beauty pageants, and hanging out at a local DVD stand that screens movies for abundant audiences of transient children. But Maxi’s emotions blossom late one night when he is rescued from neighbourhood thugs by Victor, a kind rookie cop. Smitten with the handsome policeman, Maxi begins to feel pulled between the petty-thief family that he loves and the law and romance Victor embodies.

Veering from adorable and light to bleak and tragic, Maximo Oliveros is all over the emotional map, but in a realistic way, sort of like life itself. The most interesting part of the movie is Lopez’s Maxi, a kid who should be screwed up but instead is totally comfortable in his own skin. Even when the movie is at its most melodramatic, Lopez keeps his performance in check, making this most unreal kid seem very real indeed.

The Philippines’ submission for the 2006 foreign-language film Oscar, "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros" is a unique coming-of-age film, for Maxi is such an intriguing mix of the streetwise and the innocent, self-aware yet emotionally vulnerable. Solito’s ability to inspire such a daring, unself-conscious portrayal from Lopez is no less than astonishing.

Preteen sexuality is a sensitive subject, but director Auraeus Solito handles it with dignity, never becoming exploitative. Whatever you do, stick around for the final scene, a heartfelt tribute to Carol Reed’s 1949 masterwork "The Third Man." – New York Post

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