The Kindness of Strangers

The bar continues to be lowered for what makes it into our cinemas.

Hiram na Ama takes a break in the middle of its story to have a real doctor explain what artificial insemination is. The doctor explains the process in detail, describing every step of the procedure and laying out the equipment that he’s going to use. One would imagine that this information was vital to the story, since the movie spent so much time on it. But that just isn’t the case. It’s just another bizarre choice in a movie that seems determined to be a complete waste of time.

Ross and Peachy (Brando Madrigal and Angel del Rio) have just gotten married. While on honeymoon in Baguio, Brando confesses a secret: he’s sterile. Determined to have kids, the couple considers artificial insemination. The cost, however, turns out to be prohibitive. This prods Ross to consider another solution: he hires two poor students (Luigi Moreno and Ian Mesias) that he meets off the street to impregnate his wife. Ross struggles with his decision, while the two students marvel at their good fortune.

The movie has an oddly utopian vision of human sexuality. It presents a really strange situation, one that in real life would be very difficult and dramatic. But it plays it out with practically no conflict. The wife doesn’t object to Ross’ plan, the students don’t struggle with the decision to potentially give up a child, and Ross even gets a measure of divine approval. Rather than portray the drama of the premise, the film spends a good chunk of its time explaining the actual process of artificial insemination. It is an absurd sequence that offers no real value to the story.

The movie quickly starts feeling like a bad PSA explaining artificial insemination. It’s certainly nothing that you can’t get from a pamphlet at your local clinic. All this presented in the worst way possible. A lot of it feels like a home video, with the camerawork moving and zooming haphazardly as if your drunk uncle was handling it. At least half of the movie is out of focus. No real effort was put into producing decent sound. Entire scenes are lost as the dialogue struggles to be heard over the sound of the wind. Scenes are punctuated with hilariously incongruent musical stingers. It’s just a poor effort in production all in all.

The acting also contributes to making the movie feel like a PSA. No one sounds like a real person, much of the dialogue spoken in that weird declarative tone that you often hear on infomercials. If nothing else, the actors sound enthusiastic, and they’re largely kept from accessing more melodramatic tones. Whatever dignity they have, whatever, is quickly erased as the movie sends them headlong into a series of truly awful sex scenes.

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The lesson we learn from Hiram na Ama is that it’s apparently a good idea to let two strangers you bump into on the street impregnate your wife. It presents a world where that situation doesn’t lead to obvious disaster. Instead, it leads to everyone finding his or her true place in life and being completely fulfilled within three years. It’s an appropriately terrible lesson for a terrible film, one that clearly can’t be bothered to reach even the most basic of production standards. The bar continues to be lowered for what makes it into our cinemas. How much lower can we go?

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