“MARILYN”— Rural and Gay


Rural and Gay

Amos Lassen

We have all spent a lot of time patting ourselves on the back for the progress we have made regarding the LGBT community and we forget that there are still places where rights mean very little. We see that in “Marilyn”, Martín Rodríguez Redondo’s  new film. “Marilyn” is a nuanced story of rural oppression, prejudice, and homophobia, where characters are pushed to their limits.  It is based on a real event.

Marcos and his family work as ranch hands. His father and brother handle the heavier tasks and  Marcos stays home close to his mother. Each family member has his/her future laid out before them but Marcos bides his time waiting for Carnival, the one moment when he can be his true self. When the father dies suddenly, the family is left in a rough and vulnerable situation. The sudden death of his father leaves the family in a very vulnerable situation. The ranch owner wants them to leave, and Marcos’s mother pressures her son to take over the work in the fields. Nicknamed Marilyn by the other teenagers in town, Marcos is a target for desire and discrimination.

Set in rural Argentina, we meet Marcos while he is  in high school. He’s a good student. His father works taking care of cattle for a landowner and he respects his son’s academic accomplishments and wants to give him more opportunities by enrolling him in a computer class. 

Marcos’s  mother is stern and  does not care for Marcos’ work at school. When Marcos comes home with his semester’s grades, she tells him that from now on he is to work on the farm. His father disagrees and tells him to ignore the derision coming from his illiterate mom and brother. This shows how important education is and that it can make a difference a bit of education. He is also separated from his mother and brother because he is gay and does not hide it.

His hypocritical mother is ok with Marco’s tendencies when it suits her like when he dyes her hair and adjusts her clothes but  she finds him repulsive because he is not and will not become a Latino super macho. When Marcos loses one of the only two allies he has in town, his life heads downhill.

Everything hinges on Marcos being not just a victim of circumstances, but a person we relate to. We want him  to have a better life. As Marcos, Walter Rodríguez delivers a performance, conveying just enough vulnerability behind his delicate body language and beautiful eyes. We see that Marcos knows exactly who he is from the start but it is the bigots in his family and neighborhood who start finding out and confirm their suspicions that changes things.

The rest of the cast is also excellent. Catalina Saavedra’s portrays his mother as a thing full of hatred without ever devolving into snarling. We don’t learn what her problem is with Marcos—it might be because of religion, ignorance or disappointment but it really doesn’t matter.  Her disgust and behavior does matter, however. The same goes for the people around town and a few outsiders who come in and out of the story. It is from them that we get  tension and even though we hope it will all end well, we  feel that it won’t.

Marcos feels uncomfortable in his own skin, not knowing who he is, apart from whatever relationship he happens to have with his family and his best friend. Eventually, he becomes an object of desire… and of discrimination.

Marco manages to build a small wall around himself, within which he creates the world for himself – he is a young man who likes to wear women’s clothes, put on makeup and he is in a relationship with Federico. With a carnival soon approaching, Marco is excited and happy that he can finally dress up and be himself, but what follows is a horrible, dramatic event that takes us to an even bigger misfortune.

This is a film that hits hard and I do not think it is possible to watch it without tears. We see what young men like Marco go through on a daily basis, may it be somewhere in Argentina or anywhere around the world. (Spoiler here— you might want to stop reading). The consequences of the boy’s struggles lead to an unthinkable tragedy; we see what makes a person wonder why would a young man, a teenager, commit such an atrocious act?

“Marilyn” is based on the true story of Marcelo B, who is now perceived as Marilyn and who was sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing his family members. He also became one of the first people to be in a gay marriage while behind the bars. We see Marco’s persona prior to the deaths of his mother and brother, probably so that the audience can understand  the process of consequences after a person’s inner self gets ruined by their close ones, leaving them completely broken and frustrated. This is an honest portrait of a man who is in need of a transformation and is trying to find his own manner of existence, even if his journey of self-discovery ends in a tragedy.

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