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Full disclosure: I am a sucker for a father/son movie and though “Viva” has a formula screenplay by Mark O’Halloran the director, Paddy Breathnach, gets first rate performances from the father, Angel, played by Jorge Perugorria and the son, Jesus, played by Hector Medina. O’Halloran also adds just as strong a story about drag queens in a neighborhood club in Havana, Cuba, from the old pros to the young wannabes and all those in-between and what it takes to belong this select ‘family’ where Mama, played by Luis Alberto Garcia, leads with fierce determination.
When the picture opens we meet young, unsettled Jesus who gets along and lives in a dingy apartment by being a hairdresser to old women and drag queens in the neighborhood who sometimes can’t afford to pay him.
Jesus lost his mother a few years ago and his father, who abused her, left them when Jesus was 3 years old. He was a macho boxer on the verge of winning but didn’t. After serving time in prison he comes back 14-15 years later to try and reunite with his son and for another reason that won’t be much of a surprise.
The film not only follows the relationship between a father who won’t quite accept his effeminate son but at the same time follows the latter’s first wooden performance in drag to his learning to get the strength to be who he is in spite of those around him.
Though the film goes where you know it will from the first scene I was still awash in tears when it concluded and be sure to stay for the end credits. Also the cinematography, by Cathal Watters, of Havana shows you not what tourists see but how Cuban people really live and survive. I only wish they had translated the lyrics of the songs sung by the drag performers but they certainly get the feelings of the songs across.
“Viva” is an effective film that I hope crosses over to all audiences and was Ireland’s (go ahead and figure that one out!) entry for an Oscar for 2015


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