A Filipino movie that makes a case for gay marriage? Sure, but a weak case.
10-year old Zach (Renz Valerio) comes into the home of affluent Emon (Paulo Rivero), but I’m not sure that made any difference in either of their lives. Maybe it’s because the two start out already eager to accommodate each other. On their first breakfast together, Emon is already caring and self-sacrificing, going out of his way to buy Zach something he could eat. Whenever Jack isn’t being cute or obedient, he’s ignorably self-sufficient, playing by himself with his PSP. Their biggest problems? The kid skips meals and occassionally walks into the bedroom to catch something for adults only. I would call it a sitcom setup, but even sitcoms have more conflict. A housekeeper even takes care of the boy while Emon’s away. By the end, when the mother retrieves her son, I couldn’t buy the “growth” that supposed to have happened, because it actually didn’t.
The most disappointing aspect of Little Boy/Big Boy is its crude notion of what a family is. When Emon’s new lover Tim (Douglas Robinson) comes to live with them, Zach welcomes him as a second Dad. But the three don’t really affect each other – positively, negatively – the way a real family does. They don’t tear or bleed into each other, or cause each other’s life-defining moments. The way the boy learns anything from either of them is through easily spewed truisms, like “Life is unfair.” He’s the child as reflection, or worse, accessory. In one telling shot in a game arcade, the trio are juxtaposed with a more “normal” family who are similarly having fun, and it’s the movie’s statement as propaganda image: They look like a family, so they must be. It's ironic that a movie that spotlights a couple of gay fathers may be evidence that gay men – or at least gay filmmakers – don’t really know much about the meaning of fatherhood, or care to explore it with delicacy. The "parenting" on display here is strictly casual babysitting.
What Little Boy/Big Boy turns out to be is a movie about the survival of a just-begun gay relationship, not even marriage, exactly. The writing-directing team of Lex Bonife and Joselito Altarejos didn't make a more “mature” work, but rather an extension of some issues they tackled in their first film, Ang Lalake Sa Parola: the way a person’s gay identity or sexuality rubs against his romantic relationship. Viewed this way, Little Boy/Big Boy offers a handful of entertaining insights: the rules that couples agree upon for the sake of their staying power, the importance of coming out to the public, and the destructive dichotomy of trust versus privacy. These are areas the filmmakers are clearly familiar with.
Despite its slicker look and sound – Director Altarejos does away with the grunginess of his previous films for a smooth commercial sheen and fashionably peppy music – Little Boy/Big Boy is more of the same gay indie introspection we’ve been fed in the last three years by queer movies good and bad. It's not likely to win new admirers, but keep the old fans who are already attuned to Altarejos' and Bonife's greenhorn concerns and platitudes. In fact, the most enjoyable portion of the film, and the most intricately detailed, is a steamy orgy scene with steamy guys. In a press release written by Screenwriter Bonife, he prescribes we should watch films for the story, not the nudity, possibly because nary a dick is dangled on this one. (The MTRCB cut it out.) The film that came with the article should have been a little more convincing on that respect.