The title character of this Philippine import is a gay 12-year-old who lives with his widower father and thuggish brothers in a Manila slum. Maximo is more than a little effeminate, but his lack of machismo is never commented on by his family, who appreciate his ability to cook and keep a tidy home.

Maximo’s family is involved in petty crime (including stolen cell phone reselling and running a numbers racket), and Maximo has no role in their activities – at least not until he falls in love for the first time. The problem, it seems, is that the object of Maximo’s affections is a handsome and acutely honest young cop who is new to the beat where Maximo’s family operates. The officer shows a sincere paternal interest in the youth, but he becomes suspicious of where Maximo’s household gets its revenue.

To its credit, the film acknowledges Maximo’s orientation as a given fact without making a big deal out of it. But what could have been an offbeat coming-of-age drama is wrecked by a dreary script, sluggish pacing by first-time director Auraeus Solito, and some of the worst acting to find its way before a camera (in this case, a shake DV camera).

The main menace here is young Nathan Lopez as Maximo. Swishing his hips in a catwalk stroll and eyeing the good-looking cop like a glutton eyeing a sandwich, Lopez’s painfully unsubtle hamming makes Maximo into a gay caricature rather than a genuine character. As the law enforcement object of Maximo’s crush, JR Valentin was clearly cast because of how he looked in a tight t-shirt and not for his ability to emote dialogue with any degree of talent.

“The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros” was actually presented as the Philippines entry for the 2006 Oscar competition for Best Foreign-Language Film. If this represents the best of Philippine cinema, I’d hate to see the worst!