Cherry Pie Picache, Eugene Domingo, Jiro Manio; Kier Segundo, Dan Alvaro, Alwyn Uytingco / Fiction / Filipino
This is unforgettable: beautifully-observed, moving comment on a timely issue.
?A film that combines immediate, slice-of-life observation with an emotional storyline that grips the heart, Foster Child affirms its prolific director Brillante Mendoza (see also Slingshot, p 72) as a major talent worthy of international attention. The film’s setting is Manila, where countless children are abandoned, and local families foster them en masse until such time as adoptive homes can be found. Commencing as a vibrant, informal portrait of one such foster mother, Thelma (Cherry Pie Picache), her bustling home and her many young charges, Foster Child narrows its focus once Thelma’s pride and joy, three-year-old John-John, is adopted by an American family. A handover at a fancy hotel is arranged; Thelma, ever-efficient, prepares herself for the wrench. The script, by Joel and Ralston Jover, does not seek to wring our heartstrings on behalf of either Thelma or the new parents; no broad judgement is passed on the ethics of adoption from abroad. Instead, the film simply observes the hopes, fears and contradictions that emerge in such a fraught emotional situation: Thelma’s attempts to gently separate herself from the boy she has loved as a mother; the unimaginable economic gap between Thelma’s lifestyle and that of the adoptive parents; the Americans’ corresponding self-consciousness and efforts not to appear grasping and colonial. What emerges is a heart-rending and thought-provoking study of what it means to love, to contribute, and to sacrifice, in a world of unequal expectations and resources. Most delightful are the unselfconscious performances captured by Mendoza’s restless camera: the domestic scenes between Thelma and John-John are some of the most spontaneous and touching images you’ll ever see of the tender banalities of childcare, and their inclusion is a gentle reminder of the unsung love and work put in by those who care for a living.
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