Pamilya Ordinaryo is vicious. It is vicious right from the start, where we see the reunion of teenage couple Aries and Jane (Ronwaldo Martin and Hasmine Killip). What in almost any other movie would be a sweet affirmation of love is immediately tempered by the context: they are poor, homeless, and have a child together. They do not speak in the kind of romantic language that couples on screen tend to use. They are coarse and loud and filthy. Later, they have sex on the streets that are their home, with just the dark and a threadbare sheet obscuring the act from the rest of the world.
To put it mildly, the film does not make them out to be the ideal couple, or ideal parents. But the film takes pains to show how these two are trying to make it work; how in spite of their impossible situation, the two aren’t really any different from any other parents. The action kicks off when their baby Arjan is stolen from them. The two try everything they can to find the culprit and get back their baby. And at every turn, they find people either unwilling to help them, or trying to take advantage of them.
There is precious little kindness in the whole film, because there is precious little kindness afforded to people like Aries and Jane. Judgment comes before everything when it comes to these characters. They are far too young to be having children, and should be shamed for doing so. They are too poor, too filthy, too coarse. They must be addicts, or criminals, or maybe both. The boldest thing the film does is to affirm this judgment. It doesn’t try to make these characters saints. It makes the case that even if all that were true, none of that negates their humanity. It doesn’t make them unworthy of sympathy or aid.
This can be a painful movie to watch. It just doesn’t soften any of its edges. It doesn’t even really try to shape a story out of this succession of events. This is actually part of the point of the film, which stands in contrast to the way mainstream media might depict this kind of story. A chapter in this film is about a televised depiction of their story, their plight transformed into a saccharine reenactment with cleaned up actors palatable to a primetime audience. This film wants to show the warts, the vicious reality of the marginalized.
The film’s gritty, unsentimental direction contributes greatly to this effect. There are a few moments that don’t feel entirely earned, points that kind of depart of the sober realism of the picture, but those are rare missteps in a movie that feels otherwise tightly conceived. The movie also has two excellent lead performances. Hasmine Killip puts up a convincingly tough exterior that only occasionally gives way to reveal the painful vulnerability within. And Ronwaldo Martin gives ample heart to a character that could be seen as nothing but trouble.
Pamilya Ordinaryo is thoroughly unkind, and it is the best and worst thing about it. It might have actually benefitted from a measure of structure, a general sense that these episodes in the life of the characters might amount to something greater. It might have made this story just a little easier to stomach. But again, this film isn’t trying any of this palatable. It doesn’t want to sugarcoat any of what these characters are going through. In being as raw as possible, the film reveals a shade of humanity far more moving than any sort of dramatic structure may provide.