Set in a bustling contemporary Manilla, “Ordinary People” is the tragic tale of two young street urchins who have their newborn stolen, and face apathy and exploitation at every turn. Jane (Hasmine Kilip) is duped by a seemingly generous stranger and she and husband Aries (Ronwaldo Martin) scour the city encountering glimmers of hope that are quickly extinguished.
Writer/director Eduardo W. Roy Jr. increases the authenticity and authority of “Ordinary People” by regularly establishing and framing the action from the perspective of the surveillance cameras. The opening of “Ordinary People” sees young children playing alongside a busy city road and we witness a young child mowed down in a hit and run. That cold, colour drained and imprisoned frame forces you to bear witness to that dark event and more throughout the city and beyond. Roy Jr. brings that searing and unrelenting Manilla heat to bear. Barely clothed, day and night Jane, Aries and baby Arjan are powdered with dirt; their creature comforts are fresh cardboard to sleep on. Yellow halogen provides the atmospheric haze of the night life.
“Ordinary People” was a confounding experience. On the one hand it’s an agonising view of cycles of poverty and exploitation. Roy Jr follows fruitless pursuit after fruitless pursuit of characters walking throughout the city, mapping the topography with their feet and losing their tolerance to look for legitimate ways to provide for themselves. Homelessness means little to no education, which leads to exposure to the cretinous elements of society and grooms generations of hustlers in repetitious madness. These undesirable elements, young kids who’ve had to do amoral things to survive, are then led to corrupt institutions with individuals in positions of power who take advantage of these lost boys and girls in any number of horrendous ways.
On the other hand; especially when you read the advertised synopsis for “Ordinary People”; it’s possible to read the entire film as re-imagination of a biblical morality fable. Aries and Jane live a life of sin. They’re unmarried (despite repeatedly referring to one another as husband and wife), they’re squatting on the outskirts of the city in an abandoned warehouse, they’re often resorting to sniffing DIY mind altering substances and they’re nursing their small child Arjan (a combination of their two names). Roy Jr. follows Aries’ crew in theft after theft; is this deserving of their child being snatched and a circus of vultures assembling to pick their bones with the media moral authority.
Hasmine Kilip’s plays Jane, who should be completely outmatched by becoming a mother in her circumstance, but has a fiery and instinctive tenacity that makes it work. When Jane unfortunately is burned in what seemed like an act of kindness, interacting with society is impossible. She’s still a stupid, impulsive kid in a world that would much rather avoid her. With the loss of baby Arjan there’s attention but there’s no compassion. She’s the latest attraction at the freak show. Ronwaldo Martin’s Aries is a lad with the emotional sensitivity of a sledgehammer. Working for his small family as part of a little gang of thieves that operate around the city he’s unafraid to berate and torment Jane with her misjudgement. The final sequence of the film brings Jane and Aries to a wealthy gated community to a location that may house their baby. The characters must face the clash of experiences, the clash of class and the quandary of morality.
One hopes desperately that this confronting film is an exaggeration - not the ‘ordinary’ experience in Manilla. “Ordinary People,” is not a neo-realist film about working class life, set in a culture of poverty, making a case for redistribution of wealth. The grim reality portrayed is horrific, the moral undertones make it mean.
“Ordinary People” (2016)
Directed by: Eduardo W. Roy Jr.
Written by: Eduardo W. Roy Jr.
Ronwaldo Martin ...
Hasmine Kilip ...
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.