Film Reviews

"La Mission": Watered-down Jungian Analysis Meets a GLAAD-Approved Weepie

Watered-down Jungian analysis meets a GLAAD-approved weepie in Peter Bratt's second feature, starring brother Benjamin (who also produces) as a neck-tattooed macho who will finally realize the damage his rock-hard masculinity has caused during a funeral for a teenaged gangbanger, his tears mixing with the rain. As subtle as a face-punch, La Mission nobly continues a necessary conversation about homophobia but paves the way to hell with its own good intentions. Che Rivera (Bratt), a 46-year-old widowed MUNI bus driver, spends his off-hours boxing, cruising in his lowrider, raging against the gentrification of his San Francisco neighborhood of the title, and inviting his UCLA-bound son, Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez), to pickup basketball games. Jesse, however, prefers male bonding of a different sort, like Castro boy-bar fun. When Che discovers evidence of Jesse's night out, it's gay panic at the Frisco: He pummels and disowns his son. As the Bratts tick off the usual coming-out-narrative plot points, La Mission strains to be both a thoughtful tale of one man's emotional rehabilitation and a critique of outmoded, sclerotic patriarchal customs in Latino culture. It's a laudable goal but one that too often becomes nothing more than a series of teachable moments — suitable for awareness training at a PFLAG meeting but too earnestly didactic to have much lasting effect.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.