Viva | Chicago Reader

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Rated R · 100 minutes · 2015

A young, gay hairdresser (Héctor Medina) who styles wigs for a drag troupe in a Havana nightclub starts supplementing his meager income by taking to the stage himself, but just as he's discovering the joys of performance, his long-absent father (Jorge Perugorría) is released from prison, moves in, and forbids him to go near the club. Irish director Paddy Breathnach and screenwriter Mark O'Halloran tell a familiar coming-of-age story in an unfamiliar setting—beautiful, crumbling, time-frozen Cuba. The grinding poverty of the characters, who barter, borrow, and steal to make ends meet, becomes a backdrop to the central story of an alienated father and son trying to connect. Sentimentality creeps into the closing scenes, undermining the film's tough-minded realism, but Breathnach and O'Halloran show a real affinity for life in Cuba, a land, like their own, where people see better opportunities overseas. In Spanish with subtitles.

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