Akin to Alexander Sokurov’s recent “Alexandra” in using a veteran performer as an embattled populace’s elderly Mother Courage, “Adela” is minimalist in both aesthetic and (rarer still for a Filipino film) overt sentimentality. Prolific young helmer Adolfo Alix Jr. creates an honorable showcase for Anita Linda, veteran of countless local features since the early 1940s, as the camera follows her impoverished but indominable titular character around Manila on a most bittersweet 80th birthday. Commercial prospects are limited, but offshore fest and expat-targeting DVD exposure look likely.
Still spry enough that she casually stops her shopping to help a fellow slum-dweller give birth in the street, Adela was a long-ago radio performer who gave showbiz up for a husband (now deceased) and children (either too far away or too busy to visit even on this special day). Everyone in the garbage-dump shantytown where she lives pending relocation knows and often depends on her, though she expects little in return. Time passes via tasks routine and otherwise, often caught in long stationary takes. Artfully observed, it’s content to let Linda be the sole, compelling focal point.