Film Review: Viva La Mission

Tue. July 13, 2010 6:17 PM

benjamin bratt stars in la mission

Story of a Latino Dad and His Gay Son Delivers

Roots run deep in La Mission, a film about a Latino father who has a hard time coming to grips with the knowledge that his beloved mijo is gay.

As the film begins, Che (an excellent performance by Benjamin Bratt) is a single dad who beams with pride over his college-bound, hard-working son, Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez). The two have a close relationship, more like a couple of bachelors sharing a home rather than father and son. But when Che discovers photos of Jesse and his cute blond boyfriend Jordan (Max Rosenak), he lashes out at Jesse, publicly outing him and forcing the boy to make some hard choices. The film focuses not on Jesse, who is well-adjusted and proud of who he is, but on Che's struggle to find a way to have a relationship with his gay son.

While La Mission examines how being gay can test the bond in even the closest father-son relationship, it also looks at how difficult it can be to come out, especially in the uber-macho Latin community. While the traditional, Latin heart of the Mission District and the gay-populated Castro are only two miles apart in San Francisco, they are worlds apart in mores and attitude. The world depicted in La Mission is populated with gangs, religious iconography and a steadfast hold to old ways of life. This is the only world Che knows, and he's immersed in it. He's an ex-con with a violent streak, although the audience never finds out what landed him in prison. He's a recovering alcoholic whose willpower is tested. And he's an artist, restoring old, lowrider cars into masterpieces. He's earned respect throughout his world, which he accepts as a form of redemption. When he finds out Jesse is gay, he does not know how to reconcile that fact with everything he's been raised to believe.

La Mission is a very personal film—Bratt's brother Peter wrote the screenplay and directed, and Bratt's wife, Talisa Soto, plays Che's sister-in-law. The Bratts grew up in the Mission District, and still have friends and family there. Many of the characters are played by non-actors recruited from the neighborhood, which adds to the flavor and realism of the film.

La Mission is a fine film, less a coming-out story of a gay son, and more a coming-of-age story for a conflicted dad.

La Mission now playing at select theaters nationwide.

Written by: Mary Damiano at South Florida Gay Article republished with permission and provided in partnership with South Florida Gay