2018 / drama / 1h 25min / directed by Li Cheng / country: Guatemala | USA / language: Spanish / subtitles: English
“. . . Hardly the first movie to spotlight a young person navigating their homosexuality in a repressive and perilous environment. Nonetheless, this sophomore feature from Chinese-born director Li Cheng, who co-wrote with George F. Roberson, feels like a singular and essential entry in that subset of LGBTQ coming-of-age films with an international beat.” –Gary Goldstein, The Los Angeles Times
“Precisely written and deliberately shot, “José,” a Guatemala-set LGBTQ character examination from Chinese-born director Li Cheng, is a movie preoccupied with the private tragedy of unfulfilled impulses and aspirations as a result of widespread homophobia and emotional blackmail..” –Carlos Aguilar, The Wrap
“Directed by Li Cheng, who wrote the script with George F. Roberson, the film delicately depicts the hardship of being gay in a Catholic culture and the pressure for machismo in a crime-ridden country.” –Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, The New York Times
Winner of multiple awards, including the Queer Lion from the 75th Annual Venice Film Festival, José is a gripping, layered and beautifully honest story about one working-class young man’s struggle to find himself. Made in the neorealist filmmaking tradition, the film is a nuanced and vivid look at being gay in Central America.
José (magnetic newcomer Enrique Salanic) lives with his mother (Ana Cecilia Mota) in Guatemala City, where they survive on her selling sandwiches at bus stops and with him working at a local restaurant. It is a poor and sometimes dangerous country where, dominated by conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian religion, living one’s life as an openly gay man is hard for José to imagine. His mother has never had a husband, and as her youngest and favorite child, though at the edge of manhood at 19-years old, she is determined to hold on to him. Reserved and private, José fills his free moments playing with his phone and random sex with other men arranged on street corners and dating apps. When he meets attractive and gentle Luis (Manolo Herrera), a migrant from the rural Caribbean coast, they pursue an unexpected relationship with more emotion than José has ever felt. He is thrust into new passion and pain, and self-reflection, that push him to rethink his life even as he is reluctant to take a leap of faith.