In a tiny traditional peruvian seaside village miguel a young fisherman and his beautiful bride mariela are about to welcome their first child. But miguel has a secret: hes in love with santiago a painter who is ostracized by the town because hes gay. Studio: Wolfe Video Release Date: 05/31/2011 Run time: 100 minutes Rating: Nr
Undertow is fantastic, and belongs in every gay film collection. I was amazed when I first saw it--I hadn't cried in a movie since Brokeback Mountain.
Undertow is a Peruvian film, set in a remote coastal village. It centres on a fisherman, his wife, and the fisherman's male lover who is a painter. It is at heart the coming out story of the fisherman, but to reduce it to that is like calling Brokeback Mountain a "gay cowboy movie." You watch the complexity and impossibility of the situation mount until it seems there is no way out. I don't want to ruin it for you by telling you the plot, but trust me, you won't be disappointed. The lover, by the way, is played by the man who the director tells us in his commentary is Peru's Brad Pitt. No, the painter has Brad Pitt beat hands down.
The subtitles are quite adequate, and for you Spanish speakers, Peruvian Spanish is clear and easily understood. Notice the importance of the word "guapa" (translated in the subtitles as "swell") which first alerts the wife that something is going on between her husband and the painter.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Magical realism, love and the hereafterFeb. 8 2011
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This beautiful ghost/love story is an eloquent and haunting exploration of the road not taken, of the aching that comes from realizing, too late, that you allowed your greatest happiness, you're most profound love, to fade from your life with no chance of ever retrieving it. In a small coastal village in Peru lives Miguel, a fisherman, and his pregnant and devoted wife, Mariela. Theirs is a life of simple pleasures and surroundings, but they have love, family and a sense of community. Santiago, a worldly artist has been living off and on in the village for many years but to the town's residents he's an outsider, an untrustworthy interloper living on the fringe of their tight-knit existence. However, for Miguel, Tiago (as he refers to him) is anything but; in many ways, he is his other self. These two men have for many years, shared a profound and intense love that due to fear has sadly lingered in shadows for too long. Where Santiago wants to share a more open relationship with Miguel, the latter refuses, even going so far as to reject his own nature and dismissing their shared feelings as nothing more than a special friendship albeit one that he is unwilling to even acknowledge to the outside world; however, when Santiago threatens to leave again, perhaps for good this time, Miguel is crestfallen and equally angry. SPOILERS - One afternoon, Miguel arrives home to find Santiago sitting at his dinner table and becomes enraged and when Santiago sees his reaction he realizes that Miguel can see him. You see, Santiago is now a ghost. He died in an accident and his soul is trapped in that village but is, luckily, visible to Miguel and only Miguel, who, in turn, promises that he will do everything possible to free his soul from its Earth bound existence. But nothing could be further from the truth as now Miguel can openly love Santiago without fear of being ostracized yet all the while maintaining his comfortable domestic life. Now he may walk along the beach holding hands with his true love and now he may sit on the couch between his wife and Santiago and watch television and relax in selfish contentment. For once Miguel is seemingly at peace with himself and he's unwilling to ever part with that. After a couple of village kids stumble into Santiago's old beach shack and find paintings and drawings of a nude Miguel, the truth of his relationship with Santiago comes to light and it's rough going for everyone from that moment on. The magical realism quality of this film worked so exquisitely, it made my heart ache with both joy and pain. To see these two men who were so much in love but afraid be able to openly express it to one another is as moving as anything I have ever seen in a film. There are no tidy endings here so don't look for them. There are many casualties and those that survived bear scars. The performances were uniformly excellent, even the smallest role is acted perfectly but Cristian Mercado as Miguel is absolutely amazing. The score by Selma Mutal Vermeulen merits special mention as it adds immeasurably to the feel of the film. Both the screenplay and direction are uncontrived, honest and direct, thankfully lacking in pretense. The art direction and cinematography by Diana Trujillo and Mauricio Vidal, respectively, is almost lyrical. They turn a hardscrabble and poor fishing village into a magical place where both sea and arid landscapes merge to create windswept vistas of unusual and powerful beauty. Undertow is a poetic and poignant testament to the power of love, loss and redemption. It is filmmaking of the highest caliber.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
I was not prepared for this!March 6 2011
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I actually missed my first opportunity to see this film at a film festival because the summary did not immediately grab me. Then it got several film awards including Sundance Audience Favorite in its category, and a friend urged me to see it. I was just not prepared for the perfect story, the absolutely convincing moving acting, the stunning physical setting in Cabo Blanco and the cinematography, the music. I saw it more than once and each time found more and more in it. This writer/director (Javier Fuentes-Leon) has incredible talent and instincts, and he worked on the script for close to a decade until it was really everything it needed to be. Again and again I was asking myself, how did he manage to pull off THAT effect with such simple means? This film goes right to the heart of what it is to be human, to be in a relationship, to be in a community. And, how can we reconcile the irreconcilable parts of our lives such that we can look unflinching into the mirror? The subtitling is very natural which is not surprising since the Peruvian director works in LA and is fluent in English. I only regret so few people are going to be able to see these sweeping beaches, caves and cliffs in the theater, but I'm glad it is going to be released so soon (June 2011) on DVD and Blu-ray. Stunning as is its effect the first time, when you don't when what is going to happen or when, it loses nothing on the repetition because nothing was contrived. I just started appreciating the minor characters, the unobtrusive but effective symbols, the perfectly laid-out music, all the more. In other words, a perfect film for DVD/Blu-ray !
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Achingly beautifulJune 9 2011
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This wonderful and achingly beautiful film that is gorgeously filmed in a small, by the sea, village in Peru is part ghost story and part a love story. The part that is a love story between Santiago and Miguel forms the part that touched me to my soul because it tells a beautiful tale of the unfulfilled love between two men (Miguel and Santiago). The roles of Santiago and Miguel are brilliantly played by Cristian Mercado and Manolo Cardona. In watching them in this film, one really believes in their love for each other. In fact, all of the acting in "Undertow" is superb as is the script, direction and photography. I really enjoyed this marvelous "little" film. It's truly my kind of movie that makes one think, and most of all feel emotionally. I loved it.
(Do view the interviews with the director and actors--they are wonderful)
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A Brave New FilmJune 4 2011
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Now and then a small quiet film surfaces without ballyhoo or even much press and finds its way before audiences who are deeply moved by a film about which few have even heard. Such is the case for UNDERTOW (CONTRACORRIENTE), a little film from Peru that is not only well written and directed (Javier Fuentes-León) and well acted by a fine and credible group of actors, but one that also deals with story and information that few film dare to touch. The film has won many awards at film festivals on the order of Sundance and GLAAD, but it has failed to make the public take notice in the theaters - probably because it is a Latin American male love story.
According to the writer/director, the story 'takes place in a small conservative seaside village in Peru. On the surface, all appears well for a fisherman and his devoted wife who are expecting their first baby. The hero is a hardworking and respected member of his community, which holds fast to rigid traditions. There is one wrinkle - he is also devoted to his male lover. A catastrophic accident does not erase the presence of his lover, as the fisherman must now contend with the apparitions of his forbidden love and the gossip and disapproving stares of his neighbors. And it may go without saying - his wife isn't too pleased either.'
Miguel (Cristian Mercado) is the little fisherman who seems to have it all - a loving wife Mariela (Tatiana Astengo), a solid group of friends and family, and the incipient birth of his first child. But Miguel is a closeted gay man/bisexual who is in love with a painter/photographer, the handsome Santiago (Manolo Cardona) who seems content to maintain a relationship with Miguel in secret. But there is an accident in which one of Miguel's young friends dies and Miguel is asked by the family to prepare the body for burial, carry the boy on a bamboo stretcher, offer a eulogy and then take the body out to sea to bury it in the water - an old tradition in this small Peruvian fishing village that assures that the dead person's soul will find rest. Santiago takes photos of the funeral procession and it is obvious that the townspeople gossip about the painter - a man who paints pictures and is not married is suspect and homophobia rages. As Mariela gives birth to their son Miguelito, Miguel is torn between his devotion to his wife and son and his desire for Santiago's physical presence. In a series of beautifully realized love scenes between the two men it is obvious that there is a struggle on the part of both Miguel and Santiago: they love each other but that love is forbidden. Santiago appears to Miguel one night and says that he is dead, that Miguel is the sole person able to see Santiago's ghost. This allows Miguel and Santiago to be together in the village, as Santiago cannot be seen: they are able at last to love each other in the open. But the village discovers that the missing Santiago's home contained nude paintings of men - men who appear to be images of Miguel. The village treats Miguel as an outcast, his wife is outraged and leaves, and Miguel feels he has lost everything. Santiago's family come to claim the body and Miguel finally has the courage to be the man he really is. The film ends with a deeply moving tradition upheld.
Both Cristian Mercado and Manolo Cardona handle their difficult roles brilliantly: their physical chemistry is visceral and their dealing with the Peruvian prejudice is poignant. But each of the actors is excellent. The cinematography by Mauricio Vidal captures the flavor of the Peruvian seaside and the many underwater scenes are breathtaking. Selma Mutal Vermeulen provides the musical score that is the perfect balance of folksongs and background music. But in the end it is writer/director Javier Fuentes-León who deserves the kudos for a brilliant film that took considerable courage to make. Hopefully we will be seeing more of his work in the near future. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, June 11
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Brokeback in SpanishJan. 30 2012
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I first saw this feature on HBO, and was totally amazed. First, that I watched the whole thing with sub-titles, and second that it was so touching. The ghost-plot is the perfect vehicle to explore the self-denial and repression of the protagonist, Mico. According to the writer/director, the last scene that he wrote perfectly illustrates this. It's the scene where Mico is first hesitant, then elated to walk the street, hand-in-hand with his invisible partner. My favorite lines are near the beginning, when Mico tells Tiago, "You think everyone is like you", (accepting of their relationship), to which Tiago replies, "No, I think they are like you." (Bi and repressed). Like Brokeback Mountain, it goes way outside the stereotypical depiction of a gay life. For an Anglo audience, to see it set in a rural, Latino community is a stunning reminder of the worldliness of the topic. The location and cinematography were breath-taking, the music was perfect, and the cast was excellent, especially Mercado, whose range of emotion is spectacular and his character is so totally believable. I just had to own it.