17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Raw, Real, Unwilling to Sell Out: A Fine Film,
This review is from: La Mission (DVD)
Writer/director Peter Bratt had the choice in LA MISSION to make a film about the Hispanic culture in San Francisco's Mission district to create a predictable imitation of life or a sensitive study of a culture with all of its beauty and with all of its problems: gratefully he took the latter. This is a film bursting with fantastic color from the inimitable clash of pigments used for the interiors of the homes of this culture to the fantasyland carefully restored old cars painted with religious and emotional scenes - the proud mark of the Low Riders - and the street celebrations full of lust and glamour and the intoxicating foods and dance. But it is also an internal film dealing with such realities as alcoholism, prison time, single parenting problems, pride in a child's educational and athletic achievements - and the delicate issue of responding to the presence of same sex relationships. It is a banquet of delights and problems that Bratt handles magnificently well.
Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt in a role that defines his fine acting abilities) has served time in prison, is an Alcoholics Anonymous member, and since his wife's death early in their marriage is the loving father of his well-educated and well-loved son Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez, in a role that should mark him for an important career). Che works hard as a bus driver, spends his free time restoring old cars to ride every Friday evening - 'slow, low riding through the streets of San Francisco's Mission neighborhood'. His family includes Rene (Jesse Borrego) and Ana (Talisa Soto) who share as much pride in Jess as Che: their only son was born with a cardiac defect that has made them more sensitive to the differences in children. Che has only one problem: Jesse is gay and has a boyfriend Jordan (Max Rosenak) and the discovery of Jesse secret life destroys Che image of his family and of himself. A neighbor Lena (Erika Alexander) befriends Jesse and eventually Che and Lena are draw together over a tragedy that occurs: Jesse is shot by a homophobic fellow student, forcing Che to face his own demons and begin to understand his son more fully. The excellent way in which Bratt handles these major crossroad confrontations is written and directed and acted with such sensitivity - nothing occurs as expected and everyone maintains dignity - a very difficult range of emotions to handle.
The entire cast is excellent, the dialogue is spicy, the characters are well conceived, the particular gifts of Erika Alexander as a woman with a history of abuse who is devoting her life to working in a women's shelter who allows her physical needs to be met while maintaining her ownership of a wise woman of experience are extremely well utilized, and this film offers a platform deserving of the talent of Benjamin Bratt and Jeremy Ray Valdez. It is a tough story told with great sensitivity and truth. Hiro Narita's cinematography and Mark Kilian's musical score round out this very fine achievement in cinematic art. Grady Harp, August 10