Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Ireland/Cuba, 2015. Treasure Entertainment, Radio Telefís Éireann, Windmill Lane Pictures, Island Films, Irish Film Board. Screenplay by Mark O’Halloran. Cinematography by Cathal Watters. Produced by Cathleen Dore, Rebecca O’Flanagan, Robert Walpole. Music by Stephen Rennicks. Production Design by Paki Smith. Film Editing by Stephen O’Connell.
Jesus has been taking care of himself since the death of his mother, living in his apartment and making the odd dollar doing hair or fixing wigs for the manager of a drag bar. He convinces the proprietor of the club to give him a shot at the limelight, performing numbers and taking on the persona of the old singers that his mother loved, but just as he is beginning to get good at it, disaster arrives. Jesus’s father Angel, whom he has not seen since he was three, has been released from prison and comes home, announcing that his son will not be allowed to perform at any sissy nightclub and that he will earn them a living by training at the gym where, as a boxer, he was once the next big thing. Overweight and unwell, Angel struggles to get back into the life he left behind so long ago, meaning that Jesus is forced to find more degrading ways of making a living to keep them in beans and rice in Havana’s stilted economy, where there’s nothing much to buy off the shelves and the few dollars you make come from exploitative tourists. This kind of social drama sounds like it will be the end word in depressing, but director Paddy Breathnach keeps it light and heartwarming by placing it in the framework of a kind of Let’s Put On A Show narrative (he did something similar with family illness tragedy in Blow Dry). Héctor Medina is so amiable as the young hero that his plight is a monumentally sympathetic one from the beginning, both in standing his ground with his father and earning his right to a stage presence, while the humour from his fellow queens and the superb soundtrack make for a colourful and heartwarming tale whose trajectory is deeply involving and very sweet.