Back from Prison, Life Has Changed in Gun Hill Road
Life is a series of constant adjustments to ever-shifting realities in Gun Hill Road, a Brooklyn-set indie about a criminal, Enrique (Esai Morales), who returns home after a three-year prison term to find that things aren't quite as he remembered them. Specifically, wife Angela (Judy Reyes) is trying to end a romantic affair, and—much to macho Enrique's chagrin—son Michael (Harmony Santana) now cares more for bras than baseball, spending his evenings performing spoken word in drag and dating a guy while planning a sex change. The ensuing issues of acceptance, conflicted masculinity, and cultural insularity may be familiar, but Rashaad Ernesto Green's debut distinguishes itself via an authentic sense of milieu and a nonjudgmental empathy for its flawed characters, whose quests to reconcile past dreams and traumas with present circumstances are given compassionate consideration. Though two late plot developments are borderline-contrived, Green's direction is marked by mature dramatic and aesthetic understatement. That quality also characterizes the intense, sincere turns by Morales and newcomer Santana as a father and son struggling to both understand each other and redefine themselves. A striking piano-scored scene of Michael donning feminine attire encapsulates the film's belief in self-transformation.
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