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11.25.2011

TIME'S A GOON AND SOMETIMES IT WINS

Niño
Directed by Loy Arcenas
Written by Rody Vera






Shutting yourself off from the world swings both ways, and one man's idyll can be another's cabin fever. These are the defenses built and the lines drawn, when the future turns bleak as the present starts corroding the past. The question that bears down on the Lopez-Aranda family is how much of their corroded past should they give up and what bleak future will they get for it? There's a lot at stake with the question because the past in question has to do with the massive, crumbling house they live in and whether they can keep doing so. And the past tends to get pushier if it's one as fulsome as theirs. The gravely ill paterfamilias, in his own advanced stages of molt, used to be a congressman. And his sister, often lost in a cloud of her own making, was a rock star among opera singers.

She's the whirlpool around whom everything and everyone revolves and bounces off : her brother who owns the house she now runs as if she did, the reckless son who's a has-been even before he becomes an also-ran but who remains her favorite, the grandson in whom she sees a glimmer of hope not least when he puts on a Sto. Niño cape and crown as if it were a superhero costume and refuses to take it off, the ignored daughter who only wants a little more of her mother's love than she's getting, the niece returned from abroad determined to move on and sell the house that hovers like a ghostly weight. Fides Cuyugan-Asensio is indomitable as the lapsed diva and her temperament becomes the film’s: skittish, fractious, wistful, elegant, and just the tiniest bit cuckoo.

Cut from the same genteel cloth as Ang Lee at the height of his infatuation with no-round-limit cross-generational family wrestling matches, but reined in to frustrate the demands of melodrama, Niño hones in on something more delicate, something averse to bluster and way naughtier and funnier. It hardly vacates the premises, but it never lets the air stultify or thicken into must, but rather finds a phantom power in the way the forward motion of youth and the luxuriant torpor of old age stare each other down to the same uneasy truce that is the emotional stalemate of the film, whose  tangle of estrangements reaches an impasse that you can see coming and resolves nothing, but gets unexpectedly magical anyway.


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