Gun Hill Road Review and Trailer

Frequently we see father-son relationships struggle on-screen due often in part by the father having an ideal lifestyle or plan for his son’s life — then never seeing it come to fruition. The result is a disappointed and bitter father figure. In cinema, these character dynamics are played out and familiar. Gun Hill Road is no exception, however, those proverbial scenes of father-son disputes are overshadowed by other, less emphasized aspects of the film. Like La Mission of 2009, Gun Hill Road is a compelling drama about a hardened Latino father’s struggle with his only son’s sexual orientation.

Set in modern-day Bronx, New York, Enrique (Esai Morales) returns home after a three-year stint in prison. Many things have changed for Enrique since his incarceration; he suspects his wife of adultery, and he is upset to see his son behave in a feminine manner.  As Enrique struggles to come to terms with his new life, his efforts to mend his distant relationships with his wife and son are often done with violence and intimidation.

As a viewer, it is not difficult to sympathize with Enrique and his efforts. His aggressive and violent tactics are all he knows and he does it out of the goodness of his heart. Sadly, it hurts more than helps.

Such viewer emotion could not be accomplished without an excellent cast of actors. Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, and Harmony Santana do a commendable job in each of their roles.

Harmony Santana, considering never acting before, had a very memorable performance as a youth aspiring to be transgender. I found this to be the most interesting aspect of the film, observing him struggle through his transformation. His role (Michael), was absorbing to watch mature through the film… Such mundane activities were engaging to watch; first boyfriend, getting dressed, first date and of course, first break-up. Not many films come to mind chronicling a youths metamorphosis from a boy to a woman, especially in such a setting as the Bronx.

Gun Hill Road is Rashaad Ernesto Green’s first feature-length film and hopefully not his last. While the father-dynamic was tired at times, strong editing and cast makes this film a pleasant surprise.

Gun Hill Road opens in San Francisco on Friday, August 19th at the Sundance Kabuki


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