a frank depiction of coming out, in an intolerant society.
Charting familiar coming out territory, but with a strong Peruvian machismo slant to it, this sexually frank work vividly details the plight of being openly gay, in an intolerant society.
Not that teenage Joaquín has any doubt as to the nature of his sexuality. Nor for that matter has the viewer, given it is all but apparent from the onset. Yet with a bigoted male chauvinist as a father and a mother who dotes on the church, more than her son, Joaquín's journey to get real with his sexuality rapidly descends into a crash course in drug addiction. Leaving home for the relative freedom of university life, he is soon to be seen in the company of girlfriend Ale, only to be more at ease in the arms of macho Latinos Gonzalo and later Alfonso; both of whom know how to have their dichotomous cake and eat it. Yet in a society dominated by gay men living under the guise of marriage, are Joaquín's hopes and desires of letting his homosexual heart run free, ever going to be more than mere fantasy?
Based on the best-selling novel by Peruvian talk show host Jaime Bayly, this bittersweet feature bravely lifted the lid on the ingrained prejudice and sexual hypocrisy of its home country. And as to be expected, it's not a pretty sight. But then, neither is Joaquín's cokehead persona, that of a likable / loathsome character who takes to drugs as a means of escaping the pressures to conform to the hetero conventions of his native land, only to end up realising that the grass is not always greener in fields anew. That said and for a country nervously embracing gay cinema and here cue the captivating romance that is Undertow, Santiago (I Love You Baby) Magill flies the cinematic flag with pride, even if in the process he appears to spend half his time stripped down to his briefs and the other half, out of them. Not that many will be complaining. Thankfully the supporting cast are splendid throughout, with Hernán Romero cutting to the core as Joaquíno's racist and homophobic father, namely a man who when not out womanising resorts to hunting, boxing and "hired help" to make a man of his son.
Complete with an "I like men" speech that is certainly different, here director Francisco J Lombardi has gone out of his way to deliver a remarkably honest depiction of
the heartrending emotions of self-hatred, confusion and fear that go hand-in-hand with living in a society that for the main part, is seemingly unable to openly accept the sexual diversity of life. The result marks a bold film on a social taboo all too long hidden in the Peruvian closet, all of which cannot help but make you wonder just how much inherent attitudes to homosexuality, race and class divides have changed during the intervening years?
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - the full monty.
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars.
Was available on DVD as part of the dearly missed Picture This! catalogue
starring: Santiago Magill / Joaquín Camino, Lucía Jiménez / Alejandra, Christian Meier / Gonzalo,
Carmen Elías / Maricucha, Hernán Romero / Luis Felipe Camino, Giovanni Ciccia / Alfonso,
Lita Baluarte / Rocio, Vannesa Robbiano / Prostitute, Jimena Lindo / Drug Addict at Club
and with Carlos Fuentes as Gerardo, Carlos Tuccio as the Father Confessor
and Abraham Alonso as Young Joaquín.
›› many thanks to Tony for this reader review request; keep them coming ‹‹