Writer-director Javier Fuentes-Leóns directorial debut, Undertow, is sublime. Set in a small, picturesque Peruvian fishing village, its less a coming-out tale than a magic realisminfused coming-of-consciousness love story. Miguel (Cristian Mercado), a happily married fisherman and soon-to-be father, insists hes not that way despite being head over heels in love with Santiago (Manolo Cardona), the wealthy painter with whom hes having a clandestine affair. When Santiago drowns, Miguel is forced to own up to his love in a gesture that might well mark him as an outsider in his close-knit community forever. Fuentes-Leóns visuals are sensual and poetic, from long-shot nude romps on the beach to artful close-ups in cramped houses, but its his nuanced handling of the affairrespecting the p.o.v. of Miguel, Santiago, and Miguels heartbroken wifethat impresses most. That nuance appears everywhere, from the powerful commentary on what it finally takes for Miguel and Santiago to be free as a couple (Santiagos death and invisibility, his return as a ghost) to a compassionate look at not only the cruelty and selfishness of Miguels double life when Santiago was alive, but also at the reasons for his hesitance to do right by Santiago in death.
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