Film & TV

Life Is a Series of Ever-Shifting Realities in "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. (Rated R)

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Nick Schager is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group and its film partner, the Village Voice. VMG publications include LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.