Maxi (Lopez) is a 12-year-old boy who swishes his way through the back alleys of Manila with a flower behind his ear. At home, his father (Cruz) and roughneck older brothers treat him affectionately; still, he’s essentially the woman of the house: cooking, cleaning and ironing while the men conduct an illegal business in pirated DVDs. But Maxi’s growing friendship with a handsome young cop named Victor (Valentin)—whose intentions toward the boy seem kindly but sexually confused—threatens to split the family apart, especially when his brother “Boy” (Sese) comes under suspicion for a local murder.
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros offers a textured portrait of Manila slum life, finding beauty and humor, as well as desperation, amid the squalor. Neighbors haggle and bicker; children play pranks; everybody hopes to win the lottery. Director Auraeus Solito handles the gay subject matter with great sensitivity—even Maxi’s attraction to Victor is presented with an honesty few American directors could muster. But the film doesn’t achieve the dramatic tension its deadly finale requires, and so its closing shot—an homage to the famous ending of The Third Man—just feels coy. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.) — Tom Beer