This film is set in Venezuela, a country that is one of the worst countries in South America in terms of LGBT rights. Yet, the opening is six, ballet dancers, both male and female, each possibly gay. The dancers are all topless, practically naked aside from some tight underwear on each. Typically, only the male dancers are allowed to be topless. The women are usually in something that covers their chests. Except here, the men and women are on even keel. There aren't treated any differently, and the ballet that they're performing ends with the six dancers pairing up, embracing and giving each other a same-sex kiss.
It's immediately after that we learn the choreography was by a transsexual woman named Alejandra but nicknamed Delirio, so it's obvious why the sexes are treated equally and given this gay moment. The ballet number is also an expression of the world the filmmaker wishes we lived, which is the point of a lot of art. It's not as if the filmmaker wants everyone to be gay but instead he wants everyone to be open and free to love whomever, as well as be able to dance. It's a beautiful way to start the movie and disarm us for the ugliness to come.
This Venezuelan film is brought to the United States on DVD via TLA Releasing, a LGBT movie distributor based in Philadelphia. The DVD comes out October 14, a month after a brutal, gay bashing by a group of people in Philadelphia on September 11 that made national headlines. This is relevant because My Straight Son also depicts a brutal, gay bashing by a group of people on the streets of Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela.
There are tons of gay bashing every year all around the world. Yet, the Philadelphia case had such a spotlight that for anyone aware of it, it will have some resonance for them watching this. If anything, it proves as a reminder that even in the United States where there are a lot of gay rights, if an attack like this can happen here, then what is it like in a country where there aren't a lot of gay rights? However, writer-director Miguel Ferrari takes the scene to such a brutal and dark place that even someone who doesn't know about the Philadelphia attack will still feel the pain and the horror of it all.
Guillermo García stars as Diego, a gay photographer most likely 30 years-old who documents or does promotional pictures for live events like the ballet performance in the opening, as well as shoots with professional models. He's dating an obstetrician named Fabrizio, played by Sócrates Serrano who's most likely in his 40's. Things get complicated when Diego learns his 15-year-old son Armando, played by Ignacio Montes, comes to visit from Madrid, Spain, and Diego hasn't seen or talked to Armando in five years.
The story in large part is Diego reconciling and atoning for the distance between him and his son. It's also a rather brilliant deconstruction or analysis of self-hatred, both within and without the gay community. For it, Ferrari won Best Iberoamerican Film at the Goya Awards. The Goya Awards is of course Spain's equivalent to the Oscars, and Best Iberoamerican Film is basically the award given to the top movie from Latin or South America, and I see why Ferrari won.
Almost every character here deals with self-hatred in some way. Diego has self-hatred as a father, which contributed to his distance from his son. Armando has self-hatred of his looks. He'd rather catfish a girl than actually face her. It's not because he has glasses or pimples, which would have made it easier. The transsexual Delirio, played by Hilda Abrahamz, reveals her self-hatred in a very heartbreaking moment where you feel a part of herself has died, and Perla Marina, played by Carolina Torres, reveals self-hatred through her refusal to leave her abusive husband.
There's also a brief but terrifying turn of self-hatred from Alexander Da Silva who plays Racso, the gay bashing villain. The result of his self-hatred is played out in two chilling sequences by Ferrari. Ferrari cross-cuts between a musical performance and either violence or death. Both sequences are shocking and at the same time sad.
García and Montes both give great performances as a conflicted father-and-son. They are really great individually and apart. Yet, despite all the heartache and pain, the movie circles back to the tone of how it started, wrapping things in a nice bow, but, again, like the opening, it's an expression of the world one wishes we lived. I certainly won't penalize Ferrari for putting that on the big screen for his country and for the world because it is genuinely warm and loving.
Five Stars out of Five. Not Rated but contains some violence. Running Time: 1 hr. and 53 mins.