Review: Viva (2015)


Directed by: Paddy Breathnach | 100 minutes | drama | Actors: Héctor Medina, Jorge Perugorría, Luis Alberto García, Renata Maikel Machin Blanco, Luis Manuel Alvarez, Paula Andrea Ali Rivera, Laura Alemán, Oscar Ibarra Napoles, Mark O’Halloran, Luis Angel Batista Bruzón, Luis Daniel Ventura Garbendia, Yudisvany Rabu , Maikol Villa Puey, Jorge Martínez Castillo

It is not easy for the young Cuban Jesus. He works as a freelance hairdresser in Havana and earns an extra penny by selling his body to tourists. What Jesus would most like to do is perform at his favorite nightclub, where heavily made-up transvestites mimic songs from the melodramatic repertoire. When that wish finally seems to be fulfilled, an unexpected problem arises: Jesus’ father returns to Havana after years of imprisonment. That father is not very open-minded.

This synopsis of the Irish (!) Feature film “Viva” seems to indicate a grueling drama, but the film is not in the least. Jesus’ adventures as a male prostitute do not dwell too much, and Jesus himself is by no means a drama queen. The relationship between father and son is the main topic in this film, and while that father is not cheering at his son’s choices, his rejection is usually of the tough, peasant kind. Only very occasionally does the former boxer let his hands speak. Adding to the light tone is Jesus’ friendship with the male-devourer Cecilia and the merry get-togethers with the other nightclub performers.

The scenes in the nightclub are food for the enthusiast. Although the transvestites all look beautiful (especially Jesus himself), you have to be able to handle the noisy, desperately dramatic tormentors. Those played back tears contribute to the development of Jesus: for him it is a way of expressing his suppressed feelings and thoughts. And to eventually come to terms with his father.

Those not interested in playback transvestites and troubled family relationships can still enjoy Havana’s narrow streets and dilapidated houses. In doing so, the makers refuse to romanticize decay and poverty or to turn the inhabitants into a kind of noble pauper. What we see here is the realistic setting of a gay boy’s struggle for a better life and a better relationship with his father. Nothing special, despite all the glitter, glamor and bombastic music.

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