Category Archives: GLBT Film

“EVEN LOVERS GET THE BLUES”— A Look at Modern Love

“Even Lovers Get the Blues”

A Look at Modern Love

Amos Lassen

Ana is sleeping with Hugo, Dalhia with Graciano who does not know where he is in life, Léo with Louis, and Arthur is sleeping with everyone in Belgian director Laurent Micheli first feature film. One night, Hugo doesn’t wake up, and Anna begins to mourn him by reconnecting with his body, abusing it, listening to it, ignoring it and, finally, freeing it. All the characters cross paths in the randomness of the Brussels night and then once again in the countryside. Love here takes on a number of different forms.


The story, which begins in the cold of Brussels’ winter, migrates, with spring, to a rural lakeside, before coming to a close in the summer heat of the city’s secret gardens. We visit the bathroom in a bar, a nightclub, have sex on a sofa bed, go to a deserted beach where bodies come together and loves are lost, searched for and are, sometimes found again. The characters’ paths cross and uncross, couples are created and then unmade and there is experimentation with an ever-evolving sexuality as our characters search for the kind of thrills that make them feel alive. We see the unease of this generation in an insecure society that wants and tries to reinvent sex and love.

Director Micheli dares to present confronting sex scenes that are far removed from the norms of the era. The sexual freedom that we see on the screen portrayed explicitly on the screen represents the idea of formal freedom. The film has a sense of vibrancy that is free from the cinematic language that so many adhere to and this freedom carries a burden of awkwardness, but brings real freshness into the film as it portrays the characters’ procrastination in their quest for meaning and freedom in their life.

For the actors (Gabriel da Costa, Adriana da Fonseca, Marie Denys, Séverine Porzio, Arnaud Bronsart, Tristan Schotte) this is their first film role and in their private lives, they all have the conviction and frivolity of their characters.

“FORT BUCHANAN”— Romantic Turmoil

 

“Fort Buchanan”

Romantic Turmoil

Amos Lassen

When Roger Sherwood’s husband Frank is sent on a mission to Djibouti, Roger remains behind with his adopted daughter, the temperamental Roxy, at Fort Buchanan, a remote base in the middle of the woods. Over the course of that year, he seeks advice, company and consolation from a middle-aged woman, from three wives abandoned by their husbands, and a farmer and personal-trainer. He learns that all of who are dealing with their own romantic turmoil.

“Fort Buchanan” is directed by American filmmaker Benjamin Crotty and it looks at living on an army base with a rebellious adopted daughter. The daughter, Roxy is quite the girl exhibiting buxom, earthy charms that constantly tempt sexually frustrated army wives to engage in gossip.

At first, “Fort Buchanan” seems to be Initially structured around the domestic inner workings of an army base and focuses on the lives of several broken family units as examines the entwined sexual activities and tastes of forsaken spouses. But it really exploits the familiarity of its setup to emphasize its disinterest in sticking to formulas, considering recognizable plotlines before tossing them aside as the film moves between military and civilian life. We have an atmosphere of desire—whether quashed, fulfilled, or neglected that comes to us in different and strange ways.

The base becomes a sylvan retreat that seems to have returned back into the forest and seems like a summer camp more than anything else. Here the spouses, most of them female, play out a queer-oriented roundelay of sexual gamesmanship, pressuring the naïve Roger (Andy Gillet) who is stubbornly faithful to his Djibouti-stationed husband, Frank (David Baiot) to join them. A similar pressure is exerted upon the local fitness instructor/mysterious woodsman (Guillaume Palin), with the general uptick in sexual energy apparently timed to the sexual awakening of Roger and Frank’s adopted daughter, Roxy (Iliana Zabeth) who is introduced into a the coven of part-time lesbians.

From beginning to end, Crotty backs up his ideas with humor and the sensual evocation of the base’s natural setting. The film which never settles into any identifiable rhythm; instead it drifts freely through a tangle of relationships as it looks at the intricacies of group mechanic.

When Roger and the wives go to visit their husbands in Djibouti, Roger finds that the spark has gone out of his marriage. Hoping to reignite the flame with his husband Frank (David Baiot) Roger takes certain measures which leave him, when they fail, standing alone in the middle of a party. He no longer really knows who his husband is or what he wants, and this is the matter at the heart of Crotty’s film.

The film presents us with a scenario in which the two parties of various marriages are split apart and made to live in different worlds. In a marriage of two people, as they live through shared experiences, the hope is that they will grow together through the seasons but when separated into drastically different worlds the two people are likely to grow in opposite directions. In “Fort Buchanan” this is so to such an extent that not only can the divided people not be together when reunited in one world or the other; they are not even able to live in that other world.

In addition to this complex emotional aspect between lovers, sexual frustrations fizz and than fall flat. Sex drives divert and digress and lead the characters into cross-currents of interaction with one another and the wives begin to turn their attentions towards Frank and Roger’s sometimes violent daughter, Roxy (Iliana Zabeth).

This is a look at intimacy and the lives of characters of characters that is fascinating, often funny and sometimes sad.

“DISCREET”— Revenge and Masculine Fragility

“Discreet”

Revenge and Masculine Fragility

Amos Lassen

Travis Mathews’s new film, “Discreet” is the story of an older man who returns home after years in hiding and struggling to control his demons. He learns that his childhood abuser, who was at the center of his pain, is still alive. Our man begins to plot his revenge while at the same time dealing with the concept of masculine fragility in modern-day America. The film looks at the complex potential of YouTube in this story of a childhood abuse victim whose fixation with a well-meaning video blogger confuses his connection to the real world.

This is a meditation on many contemporary social ills and presents a vividly worldview. Mathews gives us the first queer film that addresses the subject of alt-right influence on outsider identity in Middle America. There are even Trump-Pence campaign signs that date the proceedings precisely.

Gay drifter Alex (Jonny Mars) hears voices of and sees two very different cultural spheres that influence him equally and they cause disorientation and have a deleterious effect. In one ear is the aggressive Conservative pro-Trump lobby that comes with far right talk radio and that encourages his most violent, reactionary attempts at self-assertion. On the other ear is the peaceable New Age self-help counsel of minor YouTube sensation Mandy (Atsuko Okatsuka) whose videos suggest and advocate finding solace in the routines and rhythms of the everyday. Alex is eager to please Mandy and meets her at her home in Portland where he gets into making his own video art. However, it soon becomes very that Alex is mentally unbalanced and has a very different idea of what is therapeutic. Alex then returns his hometown in Texas to confront the trauma of his youth and unexpectedly comes into contact with his childhood abuser and finds that who he had once considered to be a monster is now disabled. Alex assumes the role of caretaker, even though the possibility of retribution remains with him. Mars’ dour performance holds viewers away from him. We see how he feels about his sexuality by his visits to porn shops on the edge of town and Craigslist motel meets arranged on Craigslist. Yet Alex remains an enigma. The more he goes off the deep end, the more he drifts.

Mandy is never quite a full embodiment of the millennial liberal movement that both encourages and cruelly spurns the protagonist’s difference. “Discreet” reflects the inchoate identity it seeks to portray and it begins to agitate its audience.

There can be a paradoxically public intimacy to YouTube culture that is paradoxically artificial and there is little sense of personal connection. YouYube seems to prey on loneliness among those watching. We become aware of racism, internalized homophobia and the general fear of being seen and hiding behind a computer screen does not prove that someone is discreet or not.

It all begins ambiguously with the sound of frying bacon, an image of an Asian woman holding the sides of her head and, eventually, a body being wrapped in garbage bags. From this point, the plot gradually unfolds slowly and I found it to be unforgettable even when the film is over.

During the course of the film, Alex spends time with John, an older, despondent man with a nervous twitch and arranges discreet hookups in local sex spots. Eventually he connects with Zack, a teenage employee at the local donut shop. Here the film begins a series of twists and turns as it reflects Alex’s dark psyche. We are all aware of urgency that surrounds us with the new presidential administration. We want to act on this but we are not sure how.

“Discreet” is a minimalist thriller that reflects our time without being didactic and preachy. Our government is actively trying to confuse the populace about what’s real, and they’re doing it by inciting a death and destruction narrative. We are being hit with a degree of brute force that’s measured in relation to how scared they are. Straight white men see how demographics and culture are shifting away from their self-interest, and they probably would prefer to see the world go down in flames—as a show of masculinity rather than to concede, compromise. We see that there’s a lot of trouble to be had with most things “discreet.” Discretion is central to Alex’s struggle and he responds to the isolated world that he struggles to overcome. He tries to take down the community of people with discreet actions that rely on each other to stay safe.

“HEARTLAND”— His Brother’s Girlfriend

“Heartland”

Her Brother’s Girlfriend

Amos Lassen

Young artist Lauren (Velinda Godfey) is dealing with her girlfriend Nicole’s death after a long battle with cancer and she is now totally on her own.  Her conservative and religious mother (Beth Grant) is conservative, religious and in denial about her daughter’s sexuality. Justin (Aaron Leddick), her self-absorbed brother, is too busy with his own business to be there for her. As if that is not enough, when Nicole dies, Lauren loses both her job and her apartment and she is so broke that she has to move back to her family home in rural Guthrie, Oklahoma to deal with her grief and start her life anew.

Also living at home is Justin and his girlfriend Carrie (Laura Spencer) who are working on setting up a new local winery. When Justin has to go away on a trip, Lauren and Carrie begin an unlikely friendship that unexpectedly develops further into an emotional connection and then a physical relationship. When Justin discovers what is going on, he feels betrayed by both his sister and his girlfriend.

This is a sensitive and tender tale that deals with love, loss and family dynamics. It is interesting that Lauren’s sexuality is not the focal point of the story, and her mother is the only one that refuses to accept it; no one else has any problem with it at all. The bond that forms between these two young women is the result of the fact that they both have needs that seemingly can only by met by their being together.

Godfrey both stars and co-wrote the screenplay and this is director Maura Anderson’s first feature film. The cast is excellent all around. Crystal has been a widow for 15 years now and she spends her time scrap booking and going to church. She seems to always be in a good mood. She loves her daughter, but won’t accept the fact that Lauren is a lesbian.

Justin knows how to pray when he has to pray, and how to earn money when there’s money to be earned. Carrie, his fiancé, is from the Napa Valley, and she does not really fit into Guthrie.

“BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY”— A Date in Hell

“Bad Kids of Crestview Academy”

A Date in Hell

Amos Lassen

When a new group of students is placed in Saturday detention at the infamous and prestigious Crestview Academy, the school becomes one big date in hell. Those locked up include a naïve pussycat lover, gay drug dealer, hot preacher’s daughter, squeaky-clean senator’s son, and an uninvited young outsider. Hilarity and suspense ensue while each ‘bad kid’ pits one against the other, and one by one each falls victim to gruesome ‘accidents’ while trying to escape. Director Ben Browder’s film begins with a SWAT-team storming a school. The policemen find mutilated bodies, a crashed Porsche, and a schoolgirl who literally opens fire on them. We then go back in time to 8 hours earlier, when the same schoolgirl arrived at Crestview Academy for a day of detention, together with four spoilt-rotten-rich kids. The moving keeps moving forward because of the mystery as to what has happened there.

That mystery, in short, is the motor that keeps the film moving. “Bad Kids of Crestview Academy” is the sequel to Matthew Spradlin’s 2012 film “Bad Kids Go To Hell” with both films based on graphic novels. The story takes place in an exaggerated reality, and features some obnoxious posh students who are detained for a day. They suddenly find themselves unable to leave the school, and then they start dying in sticky accidents. It seems that one of the students has been pulling strings to get in this specific detainment group, because it’s an opportunity to get all the suspects and witnesses to the death of her sister in one place. It all works great until the final third where satire is replaced with unfunny caricatures, where everyone sneers about their schemes.

At some point during the evening, everything clicks, everyone is awesome, and all jokes are funny. But just a few hours later the party becomes messy. Detention becomes deadly and we see kids who are anarchists to the core and spoiled rotten.

Sammi Hanratty stars as Siouxsie Hess, a Crestview student seeking vengeance after the death of her sister Alyson (Ashlyn McEvers). Not too long ago, the academy held a party where Siouxsie’s sister supposedly committed suicide. A handful of students corroborated the same story, all of whom were given detention for their actions. There’s Brian Marquez (Matthew Frias) is a the flamboyant drug addict, Blaine Wilkes (Colby Arps) is a Senator’s not-so clean son, Faith Jackson (Sophia Taylor Ali) is the stereotypical “slut,” and Sara Hasegawa (Erika Daly) is a …cat lover? Siouxsie has a scheme to invade their weekend detention and uncover the truth, but instead is trapped on school grounds after one of the “bad kids” is found dead.

This is a preps-gone-postal film with social reflection and savage mastery that includes sinister visuals and comic vibes decked dressed in death match “fun”.

A background gag becomes this obnoxious and we hate every character. The film becomes another mean-spirited at Affluenza but with no subtlety. Browder tries to treat the screenplay carefully, respecting the source material but ends up with boring suspense. “Bad Kids at Crestview Academy” gives us a mystery that isn’t a mystery.

“DISCO LIMBO”— David and Lucio

“Disco limbo”

David and Lucio

Amos Lassen

While at a party, David falls in love with Lucio, a guy he sees for the first and last time.. When Lucas disappears in the crowd, David sets out on a search to find him and this becomes a journey of self-discovery. In order to win Lucio’s heart over, David has to deal with his own thoughts. Argentine directors Fredo Landaveri and Mariano Toledo give us a film that can be understood on many different levels. Some will see it as a film that makes us think after viewing in while others may see it as an independent film that takes risks.

David and Lucio embark on a journey that begins on the dance floor and ends in the mountains. Here is a film that flirts at times with video art, with different languages, formats and visual proposals that allow us to have different levels of understanding in the same scene. The way that this story is told is like being at an endless party. Lucio must find the love of his life between pop songs, neon lights and bizarre characters. This is the essence of this film. It is a kind of narrative overloaded with narrative and visual elements that introduces us slowly into a surrealist atmosphere and electro pop.

The film’s focus is on the exploration of infinite audiovisual operations combined to form a collage of moments in the life of a boy who looks for another— the boy with whom he fell in love fleetingly. The narrative line that structures the story – the ancient and passionate idea of love at first sight with a stranger followed by an abrupt separation and the search that will lead to the reunion is shown to us in several different ways. The lover will change his face, personality and locations will be diverse, but the pursuit of that ephemeral love will be the constant. The story takes place in a context similar to the world today where love in times of technology is changing everything.

We do not get a value judgment on those new technologies that are incorporated into our daily life, and the film does not evaluate them, but rather what it has to say comes from the heart.

“BROMANCE”— Gay Secrets and Three Men

“Bromance”

Gay Secrets and Three Men

Amos Lassen

Three young men, Santi (Marcos Ribas), Adrian (Augustin Pardella) and Daniel (Javier del Pietro), go camping in a forest near the sea. They have been friends for a long time and share an intimate camaraderie of playing jokes on one another, engaging in horseplay and having fun.

However, this time things begin to get a little more complex when Adrian makes a move and kisses Santi while they’re swimming in the sea. Soon after they meet a woman, Julieta (Luana Pascual), who they invite back to their camp. Although it’s supposed to just be the three men, Julieta and Santi start sleeping with one another. Daniel is dealing with his own problems and is concerned about his seriously ill grandfather. Eventually secrets that could mean the end of the three men’s friendship begin to come out.

“Bromance” looks at how groups of friends can seem incredibly close, even though the characters do not know much about each other. Here we have three men who are used to their relationship being like it once was when they were younger; playful while avoiding deeper questions, and making jokes to avoid things whenever things threaten to get a little too serious. Indeed, Adrian is increasingly aware that their relationship is based around the fact they don’t know the full truth about one another, and that they are avoiding finding out, but he has reached the point of unrequited love and something has to change.

Think about people we call friends and spend lots of time with and about whom we don’t know much about them on a truly personal level. Many of us have had issues like Adrian; being in love with a friend and having no idea what to do about it.

We can also relate to Santi, who may be gay or be straight or bisexual, but doesn’t want to deal with it. Adrian and Santi are strong and interesting characters but, Daniel is enigmatic. We see that the characters are not as close as they think they are Bromance is an interesting look at this close trio, who may not be as close as they think and we see that a breaking point is not far away.

As director Lucas Santa Ana builds the relationships between the different characters, he explores what may be going on between them – some of which they’re aware of and some of which they aren’t. Unfortunately, the film ends with a happy ending but I did not find thus a satisfactory way to close the action. After carefully sharing what’s going on with the characters and who they are, it suddenly ends with us feeling that “Bromance” is more about defying expectations than bringing clarity or conclusion to the themes.

“FLATBUSH LUCK”— Cousins

“Flatbush Luck”

Cousins

Amos Lassen

Former Wall Street trader Jimmy and cousin Max make meager livings as telephone repairmen in their native Brooklyn neighborhood. They work hard slaving away to meet the demands of their increasingly yuppie clientele. Jimmy wants to return to his fast-paced high life and Max is beginning to have second thoughts about his upcoming wedding. When Jimmy overhears illegal insider trading during a routine house call, he convinces Max that they should tap the phone line to cash in on the plan hoping the money will solve their problems. However when stock tips turn to murder plots, the men are unable to go to the police and soon find themselves in way over their heads and completely unlucky.

The gay theme comes from Max, who has no idea that that he is gay, and a Brazilian singer, Juahn Cabrer, shows him what he has been missing. There are no surprises in this comedy and the cast is uniformly fine.

 

NEW LGBT FILMS TO BE SCREENED THIS YEAR, 2017

New LGBT Films to Be Screened This Year, 2017

Amos Lassen

 

Here is a list of some of the new films that we will be seeing this year on the festival circuit. I will post individual review as the films become available. I have already posted reviews of other new films (such as “Open”) and I am not including those on this list.

HANDSOME DEVIL, Director by John Butler, Ireland, 2017, 100 mins, Drama, 

In this film, Ned and Conor are forced to share a bedroom at their Irish boarding school. The loner and the star athlete at this rugby-crazed school form an unlikely friendship until it’s tested by the authorities. The two roommates, arbitrarily housed together, are very different high schoolers yet they share much more than a room and a school but the status of genuinely being outsiders who, ultimately, must learn to be true to themselves, the most important lesson of all, no matter what the consequences.

FAIR HAVEN, Directed by Kerstin Karlhuber, USA, 2016, 93 mins, Drama,

After a long stay in an intense ex-gay conversion therapy retreat, a young piano prodigy returns home to his family’s apple farm in a small town, his emotionally distant father, and a former boyfriend. Will boy love be rekindled or the future play out differently?

FLATBUSH LUCK, Directed by Casper Andreas, USA, 2016, 99 mins, Comedy, Crime,

This caper is all about being down on your luck one minute and up on it the next. Of course, a little cheating never hurts until you’re caught. Fun turns to crime, even murder, as a sexy would-be hot shot finds out all kinds of secrets that change the dynamic of his life, his values and his relationships.

A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW, Directed by Sampson McCormick, USA, 2016, 58 mins, Documentary, Comedy, 

It’s “two for one” when out, African-American comedian, writer and activist performs live and on-stage for one-night only with his standup routine prior to the screening of the documentary about being all these things and still managing on making a living and a career in show business. Sampson’s toughest act to follow is his own but he’s daring enough to take his chances in entertaining you live and then on screen.

OPPORTUNITY, Directed by Mohit Goswami, India, 2017, 73 mins, Drama, 

Two friends, now one an out gay urbane, professional and the other a small town fellow with rustic charms, recollect upon some forgotten memories from a distant past. Together, they revisit the roads not taken; and, the lines between the past and the present get blurred. Set in Mumbai, the romantic drama is a contemporary study on understanding of one’s identity, missed opportunities, and personal choices.

THE UNTOLD TALES OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN, Directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, USA, 2017, 93 mins, Documentary, 

If anyone knows how to tell a tale it’s Armistead Maupin with his ground-breaking Tales Of The City, first in books, then brought to television screens, this documentary offers up a lot of behind the scenes of the renowned author’s journey from intolerant conservative to beloved writer known for his outrageous wit and open heart with interviews with Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Amy Tan, and Neil Gaiman and more.

WELCOME TO DEAD HOTEL, Directed by Li Bin, China, 2016, 94 mins, Drama, 

“China’s first gay fantasy film, an absurd film noir,” and calling it, “a salute to the American film maker Quentin Tarantino,” the love triangle of a fellow soldier and a fiancé vie for the officer’s attention and affection in a totally improvised film without any script during the shooting. All scenes and actors’ lines are all dependent upon director’s on-site guidance, The result is something that pushes the boundaries of traditional film making.

 

THE LAVENDER SCARE, Directed by Josh Howard, Jill Landes, USA, 2016,  80 mins, Documentary,

No one will “Like Ike” (President Dwight S. Eisenhower) after seeing this film! The timeliness of its subject couldn’t be greater than right at this moment in our nation’s history. The witch hunt that the federal government pursued of LGBTQ professionals within their own ranks is dark and chilling. That it happened at all is both instructive and a warning of what is possible when power runs amuck..

SEARCH ENGINES, Directed by Russell Brown, USA, 2016, 101 mins, Drama, Comedy, 

It’s time to share the Thanksgiving Day dinner with family and friends but getting everyone to mix and mingle is challenging when so many are addicted to their cell phones. A power outage causes everyone to have to “communicate” in real time and space that’s when the tragedy and the comedy come into play. Stars Connie Stevens and Joyle Fisher.

SUICIDE KALE, Directed by Carly Usdin, Canada, 2016, 78 mins, Drama, Comedy, 

A group of lesbians are enjoying a Saturday afternoon cookout when an anonymous suicide note is found in their midst. Their friends and partners are all wondering “who wrote it?” Dark and comedic, the answer will surprise and delight even the smartest of would-be “detectives”! The fantasy is part of the film’s charm embedded though with an important message.

APRICOT GROVES, Directed by Pouria Heidary Oureh, Armenia/Iran, 2016, 82 mins, Drama, 

Aram, the Iranian Armenian youth who has immigrated to the US in childhood returns to Armenia for the first time to propose to an Armenian girlfriend Narbeh who he met and lived with stateside. Narbeh sees many cultural, religious, and national differences on their day trip together. But harder obstacles are ahead and twists and turns on the road to life.

SMALL TOWN RAGE, Directed by David Hylan, Raydra Hall, USA, 2016, 141 mins, Documentary, 

This is NOT a documentary about injustice surrounding an epidemic in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. It IS a documentary about injustice surrounding an epidemic in Small Town America: Shreveport, Louisiana. Expertly narrated by Lance Bass, the brave men and women of ACT UP Shreveport tell their stories of rage against that injustice, which may not have made them popular, but lead to necessary changes in their Small Town and in America.

 SOMETHING LIKE SUMMER, Directed by David Berry, USA, 2017, 111 mins, Drama, Musical, 

This romantic musical is so original that it can easily be dubbed “a gay La La Land.” Its freshness in its approach in dealing with youthful identity, feeling comfortable in one’s own skin, and, finally, early adulthood is as heartfelt, truthful and engaging as the original songs and music that underscore the story of young love, gained, then lost, and later regained, but not before a wide range of emotions have been experienced, felt, accepted and understood.  Love discovered is not without its hardships and heartache and the young gay men go through many challenges and are even struck by tragedy before they defy the odds and look towards their future.

“SANTA AND ANDRES”— In Castro’s Cuba

“Santa and Andrés”

In Castro’s Cuba

Amos Lassen

Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga’s odd-couple political drama, “Santa and Andres” looks at the emotional effects of life under Fidel.

A novelist under house arrest and his house guard are the odd couple at the heart of the film that is a rural drama about two supposed enemies who find they have more in common than either could have thought. The film is low-key and respectful look at on an idea that could too easily have become melodramatic. The story is about two unwilling outsiders struggling to live a life that the system has stolen from them.

In 1983, Andres (Eduardo Martínez) is living in a run-down hillside hut, having been banished there by the Cuban authorities as punishment for his counter-revolutionary views. Santa (Lola Amores) has been sent by local party representative Jesus (George Abreu) to watch over Andres while a “peace forum” takes place nearby. This is a situation that is very strange. At night, Andres spends his time writing a book that he keeps hidden in the toilet (cue jokes about “smashing the cistern”) and having sex with a mute local kid (Cesar Dominguez), who he pretends to Santa is his nephew. We learn that Santa and Jesus once had a brief fling, but after Jesus let her know that that they were not anywhere, Santa’s attitude to Andres changes. Then after the writer is beaten up by his lover, Santa tends to his wounds, saves his life, and after that, their relationship begins to change in interesting and thought-provoking ways. Granted the situation is absurd yet the movie shows how politics gets into people’s heads and damages the relationships between them, even when they are far away from the political center: Even in this remote location, everyone lives according to party lines. We also see the progress that Cuban independent cinema has made of late. Lechuga’s screenplay keeps the focus on the quiet human drama as both characters struggle internally with the system’s effects on them. We see that the system reflected here brutish, thoughtlessly automated, somewhat pathetic and clearly in decline, one from which any noble ideals it may once have had.

Andres is a deeply troubled man whose life has been taken from him. He is a double victim of his culture being both homosexual and a counter-revolutionary. His real life is lived in hiding, and the haunted expression in his eyes lets us really see that. Martinez plays him as a ghost of a man who is already hardened when we meet him here.

Santa is a country girl with little understanding about how she got into this position in the first place, and whose only understanding of Andres’ situation is that he’s written books that Jesus doesn’t like. In a system that sees her as little more than a means to a political end, we see that she is lonely and driven by a powerful need for companionship. When Santa sheds her uniform she also sheds her stern expression. Letting down her hair and wearing a red dress, she becomes both magnificent and pathetic.

Music plays a crucial role throughout— Cuban jazz is heard from Andres’ radio cassette player and it is completely at odds with the rural silence. Indeed, music throughout brings a passion and sensitivity to a world that has largely been stripped of these qualities.

Prisoner and guard make an odd couple, and initially are very hostile to each other. Because Santa is a loyal member of the  party, we understand how Andres feels.  Andres has nighttime visits from a young mute man (Cesar Domínguez) who hustles what he can from Andrés after they have sex. Santa comes across him early one morning and Andrés tries to pass him off as  his nephew, but on her return visit when she discovers that Andrés has been beaten and in need of hospitalization and this makes her realize that there is no nephew.

Santa and Andrés are a pair of loners who have both suffered under the repressive regime, although she would never admit it. Their loneliness brings them closer together, and even though it is not on the intimate footing that Santa so badly wants, she becomes close enough to him to abandon her party loyalty when suddenly he is again in deep trouble again with the authorities. Even having robbed of his life and living in constant fear does not deter his the spirit of man who is determined to find a way to be true to himself on every level. Santa is a docile loyal party member who starts to realize the possibility of actually finding some companionship to make her happy.

Director Lechuga has his two protagonists gradually bloom in their roles as the story progresses.  If we try to compare this story to what is going on today in Cuba, we understand that not much has changed. In fact, this film has been banned on the island.