film response: Contracorriente (Undertow)

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Horrifically emotional for me — probably because I’m facing a terminal illness and can’t hope to again experience the passion this film depicts — Contracorriente (en inglés, Undertow) nevertheless dramatizes in its final shots the most powerful coming out moment I’ve ever seen on film. Despite pressures to choose between a traditional married life and his closeted liaisons with his gay lover, Peruvian fisherman Héctor eventually grows the cojones to insist on embedding his non-traditional passion into the duties, obligations and customs of his village.

The irony is that it took the death of his lover, Santiago, and a vicious outing for him to both realize what he wanted — to walk down familiar streets hand in hand with the one he loves — and for him to come clean with the rest of the world: A liberating irony.

Because Contracorriente is basically a crowd-pleasing tearjerker, some of the plot moves and characterizations can seem a little pat. But it’s rarely manipulative and generally fresh and honest. In other words, the tears are well-earned.

And Héctor, oh Héctor! I understand perfectly why Santiago was so obsessed with painting him and taking his picture.

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