Movie Review : Gun Hill Road

Harmony Santana dazzles in this drama as a trans teen, Vanessa and her struggling relationship with her just returned-from-prison dad, played wonderfully by Esai Morales and a semi accepting mom, played by Judy Reyes . The movie is set in Bronx,NY.

Set at Gun Hill Rd, Bronx, NY the movie is about the relationship between a teen trans girl (of Puerto Rican descent) who is struggling to find peace with herself, a largely cisgendered society and her ex-con dad who returns home after three years. The girl struggles with her machista dad and tries to find sanity at home and outside through her accepting mother and friends while writing poetry to express her inner self.  The movie is very well made and is probably the first one I have seen that intersects race, culture, class and gender identity really well.

The movie was featured on the opening night of this year’s Frameline festival and has been critically acclaimed at the Sundance and several other festivals [Link]. The characters portrayed by Harmony Santana (the gorgeous teen), Esai Morales (the dad) and Judy Reyes(mom) of Scrubs fame, have done a fabulous job and so is the director, Rashaad Ernesto Green. While his movie making skills are not in question, one of his interviews featured on the movie’s website did raise some concerns personally.

The movie, while sticking to some clichés  like the portrayal of dolling up,  does take some bold shots at the inherent transphobia entrenched in the society – the necessity for a boyfriend to have his partner conform to a binary physiology; the boyfriend’s inability to accept the girl in public and take her on a date, or defend her when thugs on the street poke fun at her. While this might have upset a lot of trans folks, I feel it is important to talk about these prejudices so we can discuss them.

The movie also displays the ill effects of a broken medical system and a non-accepting family that leads folks to go underground to get hormones that leads to dangerous consequences. It also portrays the indelible marks sustained by assault and more so when the abuse is perpetrated by a family member.

This movie is definitely a must watch that helps understand what goes behind a struggling trans adolescent After all,  we have all worked our way through the changes in our  body – caused by potent hormones and some of us watching helplessly as the body morphed in to undesirable shapes.

ps: Special thanks to Magdy Hurtado for helping me understand the cultural, political, social identities of people of Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage.

Glossary:

machista : Exhibiting machismo

Boricua : Identity proclaimed by a lot of people of Puerto Rican heritage

Chicano/Chicana: Identity proclaimed by a lot of people of Mexican heritage

Images Credit: Official Gun Hill Road website.

About the author

Rashmi

Rashmi grew up in India and now she enjoys her time living in one of the queerest places in the world. She started transitioning a while back and is gradually coming out to people she thinks are cool enough for her. She enjoys discussing any topic under the sun and has an opinion about anything and everything. She thinks of herself as someone who can only hold intelligent conversations with people, when in reality she is totally insane and crazy, not to mention she has been highly hormonal recently. *GRIN*