Friday, August 2, 2013

Gun Hill Road (2011)

   Compelling from beginning to end, "Gun Hill Road" is a powerful and touching picture about race, gender, and family that refuses to incorporate stereotypes or cliches into it's scorching script. The three leads serve up great performances in a movie that offers no pat solutions for it's tough subject matter.

   Mexican tough Enrique (Esai Morales) gets out of prison to find his world has changed dramatically- his wife, Angie (Judy Reyes,) is involved with another man, while his son Micheal (Harmony Santana) is looking and behaving more and more like a girl.

   Michael, who is transgendered (and played by a real-life intersexual,) who has ambivalent emotions about his dad getting out of the can, is saving up his money for a painful and strenuous sex reassignment surgery, and his traditional dad is not even close to accepting his son's identity as a woman.

   "Gun Hill Road" skirts the opportunity for stereotypes to deliver a cast of compelling characters- Enrique, far from the maniacally conservative, cardboard homophobe gay movies like to serve up to the Liberal masses, truly loves his son, but his distrust of his son's true self leads him to make terrible mistakes, which he is unable or unwilling to atone for.

   Michael/'Vanessa,' on the other hand, is a soft-spoken and respectful kid who acts believably and responsibly in a role that could be reserved for trannie theatrics. Even the cop who keeps his watchful eye on Enrique is a thoroughly believable character.

    "Gun Hill Road"'s script is extraordinary- I haven't seen a film in months I was this taken with. I found the character of 'Vanessa' especially engrossing and really rooted for him (her?) to find happiness. Harmony Santana evokes great empathy for Vanessa- when she hurts, we hurt. And we love her for that.

   If I could sum this movie up in one world it would be- 'sensitive.' The events are plausible, the characters achingly real. Open-minded audiences will find a lot to love in this beautiful tale of sexual identity and accepting the things we cannot change, as hard as that might be. Highly recommended.

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