Thursday, November 20, 2014

a review of 'bad hair' by justin lockwood

It’s the truth the religious right never wanted to face: every gay adult begins life as a gay child.  This reality is at the heart of Bad Hair (a.k.a. Pelo malo), a Venezuelan feature from director Mariana Rondón.  It’s a small, slowly paced story about Junior (Samuel Lange Zambrano in a remarkable performance), a young boy with an overstressed single mom, Marta (Samantha Castillo), and a fixation on straightening his hair for his class photo.  Marta's too distracted by trying to get her old job back to show Junior much affection, but this un-masculine preoccupation troubles her; Junior’s paternal grandmother Carmen (Nelly Ramos), meanwhile, is more accepting but wants to raise the child exclusively as her own.  Junior, whose only friend is a fat girl with similar dreams of glamour, and who pines for the hunky teenager running the local newsstand, is caught in the middle.

Rondón portrays a sad look at life in Venezuela, with blocks of drab tenements and the children play acting murder and rape with dolls, without overstatement.  The film is solidly made with great, naturalistic performances, and it builds gradually toward an unflinching conclusion.  There are no easy answers here.  Marta's not a bad mom, just a tired and overwhelmed one.  Bad Hair is not a happy story, but it’s an important and truthful one.

-Justin Lockwood

Bad Hair is playing now at Film Forum

Follow me on Twitter: @HeyLockwood

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