›› Undertow - Contracorriente ‹‹

a film by Javier Fuentes-León.

2009 | 97 mins | Peru.

a captivating supernatural styled ode to romance.

Dave says:

From writer and director Javier Fuentes-León comes this captivating gay romance; albeit ones that's served with a supernatural twist.

And it all revolves around closeted Miguel (Cristian Mercado); a fisherman living in a close-knit, if impoverished community off the Peruvian coast, one where everybody knows your name and moreover, your business. Only what the locals are not aware of is Miguel's relationship with ostracized artist Santiago (Manolo Cardona); an out 'n' proud outsider whose sole reason for enduring the ingrained prejudices of village life is his love for Miguel, courtesy of a series of clandestine meetings on secluded shores. Yet when a tragic accident takes Santiago's life, how can Miguel say an emotional goodbye to the man he loved, when to do the right thing, would be to reveal his true sexuality to the villagers, to his friends, let alone to his expectant wife?

Beautifully shot and played by one and all, here Mercado excels in the role of a husband torn between his love for his wife Mariela, as achingly portrayed by Tatiana Astengo and his desire for his male lover in a community ingrained with the values of work, marriage and family. Yet this is also a film that and by way of a narrative twist, results with both men being able to live openly as lovers in a village laden with homophobia. Only it's an utopian bubble that's set to burst, with Miguel's wife becoming all too aware of local gossip that she would have preferred not to have heard.

Complete with scenes of overt gay affection that whilst far from explicit, nonetheless rank as a remarkable achievement for Peruvian gay cinema, this touching, life-affirming and yet equally bittersweet work finds Fuentes-León not afraid to intercut his surreal ode to romance with issues of sexual identity, let alone the macho Latino image itself; namely what it is to be a man in a community built upon social conformity, religion and superstition. All of which makes for a remarkably moving film on life and love and if anything, the very nature of human relationships when the one you want to share the rest of your life with, finds their life tragically cut short. Simply wondrous.

›› available as part of the AXIOM FILMS catalogue: 27th September, 2010 / UK.
›› revised: Monday, 25th July, 2022.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - bare-arsed cheek | Overall - file under ... 5 stars

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