Magazine article Screen International

'Viva': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Viva': Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Paddy Breathnach. Ireland. 2015. 100mins.

There may not be too many surprises in this Irish/Cuban tale of a young gay man's troubled relationship with his father. But the vivid backdrop of Havana's drag clubs and tawdry cruising grounds, coupled with quality of the work both in front of and behind the camera, give Paddy Breathnach's picture a crowd-pleasing momentum which could translate into theatrical success with LGBT audiences and beyond after a festival run which started in Telluride and moved onto Busan.

Willowy teenager Jesus (Héctor Medina) scrapes a living by doing old ladies' hair and wrangling the wigs of a raucous gaggle of drag artists. But he dreams of something more. Alone since his mother died and his already absent father was incarcerated for murder, Jesus wants something for himself. He wants to perform in drag, alongside his mentor and protector Mama (Luis Alberto Garcia, combining the physique of a hod carrier with the on stage intensity of Shirley Bassey).

Jesus gets his wish and his alter ego, Viva, is born. But then, just as Viva is starting to relish the limelight, a man from the crowd punches her in the face. It is Angel, (Jorge Perugorria), Jesus' father, released from prison and back in his life.

Cut lip patched up by Mama, Jesus heads home to discover, to his horror, that his father has moved into his tiny apartment. What's more, Angel swiftly curtails Jesus' drag career. "You won't be doing it again," he says, and his words hit home with every bit the same force as his fist.

The drag queens are sympathetic. …

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