Every five or six years a movie comes along that has the potential to radically alter the popular dialogue around a particular issue or topic. The film generally tells a story from a new, distinct perspective, provides a stark, harsh, gentle, funny, and human point of view about a situation or situations that are broadly relevant but largely ignored or only talked about behind closed doors. The "what goes on in this house, stays in this house," silences that so many of us know too well.
Once every five or six years a movie comes along that I wish every single person on the planet could be compelled to watch.
Gun Hill Road is one of those movies.
The story is simple. Set in the South Bronx, A father (Esai Morales) returns from prison after suffering sexual violence while an inmate to find his family much changed since he left. His wife (Judy Reyes), in his absence, found comfort with another man, and his son, Michael, is in the process of becoming Vanessa (Harmony Santana), the women Michael was born to be.
What ensues is a raw look at what it means to walk in brown skin, poor skin, incarcerated skin, sexually violated skin, gender non-comforming skin, transitioning skin, transcultural skin, machista skin, mother's skin, father's skin, urban skin and all connected through a tapestry of blood and street kinship, families of choice and families of survival and running throughout the whole thing a literal and spiritual poetry that gives life.
This movie was sometimes funny, sometimes sensual, sometimes deep, and sometimes light but it was never for a moment disconnected or artificial not even when Vanessa goes for her first silicon injection.
Esai Morales gives the performance of a lifetime, and I would not be surprised if this doesn't earn him an Oscar nomination. Judy Reyes, most often known as the witty and sassy Dominicana from Scrubs proves that she is a soulful actress whose talent and range runs deep. And newcomer Harmony Santana, a trans woman who quite literally was beginning her own physical transition during the filming of this movie is reminiscent of Gabriel Sidibe....a brilliant newcomer that ties the entire story together.
Rashaad Ernesto Green, I had a chance to hear you speak at the Angelika on August 5th. Congratulations on a brilliant piece of work. Keep it humble my friend, but be proud of what you have accomplished.
And for the rest of you, get your ass out and see this movie. Now.