Directed by Miguel Albaladejo. Starring José Luis García-Pérez, David Castillo, Empar Ferrer, Elvira Lindo, Mario Arias, Arno Chevrier, Diana Cerezo. (2004, NR, 99 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 4, 2005
This Spanish movie (which debuted in Austin during the most recent aGLIFF festival) is a well-observed and canny drama. The story is inhabited by realistic and clearly drawn characters and situations. Director and co-writer Albaladejo relies on these attributes instead of taking the easy way out and turning his movie into a simple treatise on gay adoption. Pedro (Pérez) is a gay man who works as a dentist and parties with his friends at night. His promiscuity defines him, as does his social life among other bearish gay men (the hairy, non-hardbody types). His life changes when his flaky sister decides to go to India with her new boyfriend and leaves her 9-year-old son Bernardo (Castillo) in Pedro's charge. In short order, she is jailed for trafficking in drugs, and Bernardo's two-week visit turns into an indefinite stay. Without really realizing it, the two form a tight relationship as Pedro begins to curtail his nightly cruising and chide his friends for rolling joints in front of the boy, and Bernardo happily cooks for the two of them and confides his precocious private thoughts to his uncle. Just as life begins settling into a new groove, a hitch comes along in the form of Bernardo's paternal grandmother, whose grief for her own dead son prompts her to want custody of Bernardo (whose mother has not previously allowed her to visit with the child). She holds some damning information over Pedro to force him to comply with her wishes. Yet, even here, where the movie could have made the grandmother into an evil villain, Albaladejo shows great restraint. By the end of the movie, everyone is not exactly the person they were to begin with, and that is the movie's charm. Two graphic sex scenes have been cut out of the film for this American release, probably wisely, for they would have required it to be rated NC-17, and there is nothing else in the film that makes such limiting categorization necessary. The two central performances are strong and believable, something that is seen too infrequently among child actors. Bear Cub purrs with uncommon emotion.