Sunday, April 24, 2016

Magnolia Pictures Film Review - VIVA

Jesus (Hector Medina) works as a hairdresser in Havana.  He has private clients during the day and at night he does hair, makeup and wigs in a stylish drag club. At the club he marvels at the acts on stage believing that he can follow their path. Back at home his childhood friend Cecilia (Laura Aleman) takes advantage of him at every turn. She wants his apartment for her dates and mocks his homosexuality to get a reaction.  Even her grandmother Nita a regular customer warns Jesus to stay clear of her granddaughter.  Jesus has no family. His grandmother and mother have passed while his father might as well have as he left when Jesus was 3 to pursue a boxing career. Money is very tight amongst the locals. Jesus has a client base but they are often short on payment. When things get desperate he heads to the city centre where his friend Don hangs out for a chance to meet tourists looking for a good time.

After getting the opportunity to perform at the club. Jesus is unimpressive at first but slowly gain confidence as a performer. His emotions begun to build as he commands the stage and the room at one of his stronger performances. A  patron brings the show to a sudden stop by striking Jesus. The customer turns out to be his father Angel (Jorge Perugorria).

Director Paddy Breathanach presents a story that is more about a relationship between a father and a son and the setting of Havana than the rise of a performer. The city is prominent in the piece and a major character. Jesus spends most of his day wandering around Havana's lane and alleyways. His apartment is rundown but full of character. Javier and Jesus try to learn more about each other having had no relationship for many years. The former the revered boxer who did time in prison. The latter the hair dresser who never had an interest in girls and had become used to being on his own and fending for himself.

Hector Medina shines as the lead character. He is often vulnerable and desperate, short on money and lacking in confidence.  Medina is at his best when he stands up for himself in battles with his father, Celeste and fights to be himself in the Club. Jorge Perogorria is well cast as Jesus' father Angel. He exudes macho rage and shows the miles of decades of a life on the fringe.  Luis Alberto Garcia is strong as Mama nightclub owner and defacto parent of Jesus. He confronts Angel having dealt with bully's all of his life and fiercely looks out for the best interest of the club.

Viva is a father and son story set in the seedier section of Havana. The title character is the alter ego of a young man conflicted by various emotions and used to fending for himself.  The setting, cast and location work well making a film that is well worth the watch.

*** 1/2  Out of 4.

Viva | Paddy Breathnach | Ireland / Cuba | 2015 |100 Minutes.

Tags: Performer, Boxer, Havana, Drag Queen, Prison, Wigs, Hairdresser, Havana, Father & Son.

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