Thursday, March 18, 2021

SXSW with Abe: The Fabulous Filipino Brothers

I’m thrilled to be covering SXSW for the third time. This year, I’m not in Austin, but watching films virtually and reviewing them as soon as I can.

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers
Directed by Dante Basco
Narrative Spotlight

Every family has its idiosyncrasies. Parents influence their children with the cultural, religious, and sociopolitical values they teach and practice, which may be embraced and adopted or rebelled against, depending on how they are imparted and digested. Siblings in the same family don’t always behave the same way as they grow up, and staying close through adulthood can prove just as impactful on how they interact with the world. It can be particularly fun to see how birth order and treatment by other family members shapes each of them, as is very much the case with this upbeat and energizing comedy.

The Basco brothers all live in Pittsburg, California, where their Filipino heritage is a major part of their identities. Each of the four gets a vignette that checks in with where they are in their lives. The oldest brother, Dayo (Derek Basco), offers to pay for part of a family wedding and scrambles to come up with the money, leading him down a regrettable path. Duke (Dante Basco) is away on business and runs into his high school girlfriend, Anna (Solenn Heussaff), which prompts the return of unexpected feelings. Dave (Dionysio Basco), who is far from serious, meets a mystery woman who he finds very attractive. Danny Boy (Darion Basco), destitute after a breakup, reluctantly goes on a date with Teresa (Liza Lapira), who may be just what he needs to return to some semblance of normalcy.

The four segments of this film are connected by the narration of Dores (Arianna Basco), who explains how the family functions and dramatizes each of their backstories. They do feel distinctly different, with Dayo and Dave’s paling both in seriousness and entertainment value to the other two. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them; they just aren’t as memorable or enthralling. That may be because what they experience is, generally speaking, nothing new, whereas both Duke and Danny Boy are challenged to change how they operate, which certainly isn’t easy but proves very watchable.

The inarguably best part of this film is that these characters are played by real-life siblings. Dante serves as director, and there’s a comfort that can’t necessarily be mimicked on screen that comes from their real relation. It doesn’t come across as too casual or forced, and it’s great to see this familial effort prove so tremendously successful. Even if two of its four parts are stronger than the others, the better portions feel longer and more substantial, contributing to a very worthwhile and enjoyable whole full of winning and smile-inducing moments.


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