Film Reviews

Shifting Gears On Gun Hill Road

Life is a series of constant adjustments to ever-shifting realities in Gun Hill Road, a Brooklyn-set indie about a criminal, Enrique (Esai Morales), who returns home after a three-year prison term to find that things aren't quite as he remembered them. Specifically, wife Angela (Judy Reyes) is trying to end a romantic affair, and — much to macho Enrique's chagrin — son Michael (Harmony Santana) now cares more for bras than baseball, spending his evenings performing spoken word in drag and dating a guy while planning a sex change. The ensuing issues of acceptance, conflicted masculinity and cultural insularity may be familiar, but Rashaad Ernesto Green's debut distinguishes itself via an authentic sense of milieu and a nonjudgmental empathy for its flawed characters, whose quests to reconcile past dreams and traumas with present circumstances are given compassionate consideration. Though two late plot developments are borderline contrived, Green's direction is marked by mature dramatic and aesthetic understatement. That quality also characterizes the intense, sincere turns by Morales and newcomer Santana as a father and son struggling to both understand each other and redefine themselves. A striking piano-scored scene of Michael donning feminine attire encapsulates the film's belief in self-transformation.