Shedding light: A review of Star na si Van Damme Stallone

Contrary to its title, Star na si Van Damme Stallone (2016) has more than one star. Think Boyhood (2014) meets I Am Sam (2001)—except this time, we watch Van Damme Stallone (“Vanvan”) grow up through the eyes of those who love the boy.

The plot itself connects the reel to real life. Vanvan wants to be an action star. He also has Down Syndrome, and so do the actors portraying him. Stars in their own right, Jadford Dilanco and Paolo Pingol breathe soul into the younger and older Vanvan, respectively. The film does not just preach representation, but draws on the actors’ personal experiences to tell the story.

The story is told through vignettes of Vanvan’s life. He faces school bullies with Tano, his older brother. An adult Vanvan goes to auditions with his dad’s support. The constant is Nadia (Candy Pangilinan), Vanvan’s “ermat,” as he calls her. As mother to a special needs child off-screen, Pangilinan knows her role by heart. It shows when Nadia stares blankly after hearing Vanvan’s diagnosis; when she fusses over him; when she guides him through buttoning a shirt for the first time; and even when she weeps over the infant Vanvan, apologizing for resenting his existence.

Towards the end, however, the vignettes lose clarity, and there is not much of a conclusion for Vanvan’s celebrity aspirations. Throw in some fantasy sequencesjarring at best, tacky at worstand Van Damme Stallone is far from perfect. But the fact that it ends with a huge “what’s next?” means a lot.

With that, Nadia opens and closes the film by musing about the future. “Sa ating pagitan,” she says, “may isang libong puwede.” (Between us, there are a thousand possibilities.) Perhaps it’s for the best that things are left open-ended, yet on a hopeful note—for Vanvan, his loved ones, and those in similar circumstances.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Photo retrieved from Pinoy Movie Blogger.

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