Bisperas takes place during Christmas Eve, a time when people are at their most materialistic and greedy. The Aguinaldo family has just been burglarized and the sense of danger that the crooks are still lurking is so effectively set up, you fear for the life of the father (Tirso Cruz III) as he walks through the dim, just-robbed home, and it took all your will not to scream. Conveniently appearing golf club aside, that scene was effectively horror-filled, if horror were ever the intent. After the scare, the father calls everyone in to safety and what the foolish family goes to check first are the most inconsequential things: a Macbook, a land title, and a cellphone. The robber has wreaked unrest within this affluent, thoroughly riches and material wealth-caring family and it’s not for reasons that have to do with their safety. Bisperas is not a thriller after all.
The film smells faintly of anti-Catholic propaganda. It has hints of anti-Catholic sentiments from the random bits of venial sins exhibited by the evidently devout Catholics who participate in ceremonial Catholic Christmas things. But then the sins are too inconsequential to create a lasting impression. Highly doubtful that if it were about that, the really fat guy buying ten puto bumbongs for himself, the woman screaming mean things to random fatties, the hunky baby daddy checking out a street skank, and the policemen dicking around for PX goods, would hardly serve as instruments of judgment. Taken collectively, the point is well made. It’s nice if it actually wasn’t trying to pass judgment although it most certainly is. If it were trying to say that Catholics or any organized religion’s most devout followers all converge in one church, receive the same body of Christ, it doesn’t provide many clues. The knocked down Catholic figurines might be saying something. But just maybe. It could be a super subtle symbolic symbolism that robbers’ knocking them over is the faith that should and ought to be… knocked over. See also the ‘God Bless Our Home’ decor hanging at the door.
What it’s not about is the exploration of a confused young man’s sexuality although it isn’t so far out a subject for such a film to broach, being an Indie-mindie film shot in the predictable shaky, handheld style that is the turf of gay, Sexuality Exploration films. Just when you think it’s about to go that route, it completely abandons it. The film’s gay is thankfully not raging inside himself about how Awful It Is To Be In This Gay Situation. Rather, the gay is beside himself with the loss of an Ateneo jacket. How very refreshing.
It’s so realistic it makes other Filipino family dramas look like cartoons. It’s the kind of family movie that does not attempt to nicely patch things up in the end because some family issues are for life. Bisperas could have done more with its seemingly insignificant characters, but after being subjected to the Aguinaldos’ gamut of issues, five people, one family, seemed enough. As a piece of entertainment, it is a bit of a struggle to enjoy but as a reflection of the typical family in a familiar society, intent on not being easy, in its quiet, tense nature, was it most affecting and effective.