CineFilipino Movie Review: Star na si Van Damme Stallone (Van Damme Stallone is now a Star)

Star na si Van Damme Stallone is a charming mother-son story thanks to a riveting performance by Candy Pangilinan, a thoughtful screenplay and deft film direction.

Based on real-life characters and events, this tale is about NADIA, a single mom from Bocaue, Bulacan, who goes through the trials and tribulations of raising VANVAN, a child with Down Syndrome.

To what extent can you really provide unconditional love?

Star na si Van Damme Stallone tackles this subject through the story of a mother with a child that has Down Syndrome. Filipino movies often turn characters with special needs into caricatures as evidenced by cringeworthy TV series Budoy. Fortunately this 2016 CineFilipino entry that’s re-released in cinemas along with other entries of Pistang Pelikulang Pilipino 2017 doesn’t deliver cheap melodrama at the expense of Van Van.

The story focuses on his mother Nadia. While the movie is advertised as a light-hearted movie, Star na si Van Damme Stallone isn’t afraid to convey dark moments that comes with the reality of the situation. The movie subtly shows how Nadia – and Tano in some degree – suffer in an effort to make life as normal as possible for Van Van. Film direction deftly captures the emotions of the story which lend the movie its gravitas.

In one scene, Nadia cries in a car after watching a movie as she realizes that her son can never fully achieve his aspirations because of his condition. The camera doesn’t take a close-up of a wailing Nadia, but shoots from afar instead, showing a mother crying in the dark.

At the same time, the script develops Van Van’s character and doesn’t exploit his condition for theatrics commonly seen in mainstream films and TV. In these cases dramatic scenes often become more of an acting exercise for the actor or actress, rather than genuine compelling moments.

Candy Pangilinan carries the whole movie and delivers a stellar performance. The rest of the cast also did well.

While Star na si Van Damme Stallone isn’t a typical movie about Down Syndrome, it’s still a crowdpleaser than ties up the story with pat resolutions and a neatly wrapped up ending.

Nonetheless, the movie has enough realistic moments to separate it from typical family dramas. In the end, Star ni Van Damme Stallone is a mother-son story which tells us that the people who see us for who we are, is what truly matters.

My Rating: 7/10

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