Finding the Best Gay-Themed Films, #3: La Mission

This 2009 film is a great one that I happened to stumble upon one evening while I was browsing Netflix. It was one of my recommendations offered by the site based on my previous viewing history. Prior to finding it there, I had been completely unaware of it. My interest was piqued by the synopsis provided, so I figured I would take a chance and check it out. I was just about to add it to my queue when I saw that it was available on Netflix streaming service. Perfect! I didn’t have to wait to see it! Instead, I just hit the play button and watched it right there on my PC!

As the title implies, La Mission is set in San Fransisco’s Mission district. Benjamin Bratt stars as Che Rivera, a recovering alcoholic and ex-con with a typically macho view of the world. When Che discovers that his son, Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez), is gay, all hell breaks loose. He makes this discovery when he comes home one evening to find Jesse asleep in his room, and happens to notice a pile of snapshots of Jesse kissing his boyfriend on the bedside table. When confronted the next day Jesse admits the truth, and his father flies into a rage! Refusing to accept the news, Che angrily proclaims that Jesse is now dead to him! Their fight turns physical, and Che orders Jesse out of his house!

During their estrangement, Che develops a friendship with an upstairs neighbor by the name of Lena (Erika Alexander). The friendship gets off to a rather rocky start, but the two are finally able to get past their differences. As the friendship progresses, and the bond between them grows stronger, Lena helps Che to realize that he can’t just abandon his son, who needs him more than ever at a time like this. So Jesse eventually comes back home, but things don’t really improve much. Che still can’t accept his gay son. The two of them do make attempts to communicate, but always end up walking away from the conversation. They basically spend their time walking on eggshells and tolerating one another more than anything else.

Things pretty much continue on this path until tragedy strikes. Jesse lands in intensive care after a run-in with a couple of thugs who had been harassing him since discovering his sexuality. As Jesse slowly recovers, Che maintains a constant vigil at his bedside, as does Jesse’s boyfriend, Jordan…at least until he is angrily confronted and threatened by Che. When Jesse recovers fully and learns of the confrontation between them, he again leaves home. With his son no longer in his life, Che slips to his old ways and begins drinking again. Jesse, meanwhile, goes off to attend college at UCLA, not knowing that his dad is sinking deeper and deeper into despair.

While I did enjoy this film, I have to say that I was rather dissatisfied with the ending. I can’t really tell you why without giving it away, so you’ll have to watch for yourself as far as that is concerned. Aside from that, it was great. The performance of all the main actors here is entirely authentic, brimming with a heart and soul that truly brings these characters to life. Although, the story here will certainly not win any points for its originality, the movie is well-written and moving. Some of the confrontational scenes between Jesse and his dad can be difficult to watch for some, but they do accurately reflect the struggles that often take place between gay teens and their parents. The pace gets a little slow in spots, but the quality of the acting lends enough reality to the characters that you really end up caring about them and want to know what happens to them. All things considered, this is a great film that I would highly recommend!