Che (Benjamin Bratt) has lived in Mission, a district of San Francisco, for all of his life and also raised his son Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez) there on his own, after Jesse’s mother died. Che is respected in the area and since he and Jesse bonded over building lowriders, they are very close. Until Che finds out that Jesse is gay and dating a white boy. Enraged and despite his neighbor Lena (Erika Alexander) trying to soothe things over, he kicks Jesse out after a beating. But Che loves Jesse too much to not at least try and find a solution, even though he can’t really accept him for what he is.
It’s been a couple of days that I finished my part of the identities Fesival. Out of the ten movies I saw in the regular program this year, nine were good (I haven’t reviewed all of them yet). But somehow La mission is the one that I’ve been thinking about most since then. It’s an intense film, told from an unusual perspective. I loved it.
A big part of La mission’s story revolves around Jesse’s coming out and how Che isn’t able to really handle that very well. And that part of the story was very well done, I thought. But the most outstanding feature of the film were it’s firm ties to the US-Latino culture in La mission. I don’t think I’ve seen another film that seems quite so frank about the parallel existence I’m sure many immigrants live in. And it doesn’t only show it, it shows the strong ties that come with it, the community, the sense of identity and the critical awareness of the US imperialism, while certainly not being uncritical of the issues within the district itself.
That way, the movie not only tackles homosexuality, but also feminism, domestic violence, gang violence, poverty, alcoholism and racism – issues that are inextricably linked, of course. And it allows its characters to take strength from their heritage and bring it into the culture they live in now, instead of being conflicted about their roots. And that was fantastic to see.
I admit that I haven’t seen many films with Benjamin Bratt before, but I did see some and he never really stood out to me. Until now that is. His Che is an entrancing character and you can’t really take your eyes off him even for a second. From the way he walks to the way he fights himself to at least try and cope with Jesse’s sexuality – everything about him seems a conflict, more often than not glossed over by a show of ultra-enhanced masculinity. And Benjamin Bratt makes you feel every single moment of that conflict.
In short, I was impressed by the film. I didn’t expect it to be this good. And now I’ll have to add Peter Bratt’s other film Follow Me Home to my watchlist.
Summarising: Totally recommended.