Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Gun Hill Road

Harmony Santana and Esai Morales
in Gun Hill Road. [click for full size]
Gun Hill Road, dir. Rashaad Ernesto Green, 2011, USA, 88 min. 
Thursday, June 16, 7:00 PM, Castro Theatre, ticket code GUNH16

Enrique Michael Rodriguez (Esai Morales) is coming home to his Puerto Rican family in New York City after three years in prison — not his first time — to find that his family is not quite just as he left them. His wife still loves him, but how much comfort did she find in the arms of another man while he was "upstate"? More importantly, what is up with his teenage son Michael (Harmony Santana)?

Enrique's efforts to reconnect over baseball (or football, or basketball, or fill-in-the-blank-ball) are falling flat, and Enrique gradually learns that his son and namesake is now calling herself Vanessa, growing her hair long, and writing poetry. It's quite a dilemma for a macho ex-con making a shaky transition from prison to an outside world that stubbornly refused to stand still while he was gone. We see Vanessa's ambivalence, watching the father she loves return home and demand that she renounce the new life into which she is blossoming forth, but the short timescale of the film gives us much less insight into Enrique's process: he barely moves beyond the initial shock, and it is the brevity of that character arc that left me feeling unsatisfied. Still, highly recommended.

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