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La Mission (2009)

A movie directed by Peter Bratt

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Raw, Real, Unwilling to Sell Out: A Fine Film

  • Aug 11, 2010
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

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More La Mission (2009 movie) reviews
review by . July 09, 2010
Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) defines himself not merely by his ethnic and spiritual culture, but also by street culture, growing up tough and maintaining that image on a daily basis. Living in the Mission district of San Francisco, he earns the respect of his neighbors by being the very definition of masculinity: Physically strong, emotionless except for anger, able to finish a fight should one start. He's also passionate about restoring classic cars, a hobby that requires intensive manual labor. …
review by . May 29, 2010
"La Mission"            Tradition, Family and Rage            Amos Lassen        It is not often that we get a film of brilliance like we get in "La Mission" and this is all due to Benjamin Bratt who does a beautiful, or should I say, gorgeous, job piece of acting in his portrayal of a complex, tortured conservative Latino who is pushed to …
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Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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For this affecting labor of love, Peter Bratt focuses on a Latino widower with rigid views on masculinity. A bus driver covered in tattoos, Che Rivera (the filmmaker's brother, Benjamin Bratt) lives in San Francisco's Mission District with his son, Jes (Jeremy Ray Valdez). A recovering alcoholic who customizes low-riders on the side, Che takes pride in the high school senior's academic achievements, but he doesn't take kindly to homosexuals--and has no clue about Jes's secret life until he finds the photographic evidence. As expected, he gets upset, but Jes's insulting defense only makes matters worse and leads Che to kick him out. While Jes stays with relatives until things cool down, Che tries to resist the bottle, but word travels fast in a close-knit community, and the personal becomes political when bullies hassle the Riveras, leaving Che to consider revenge. Lena (the radiant Erika Alexander), a concerned neighbor who works at a women's shelter, tries to help father and son mend fences, but there's only so much she can do. She's also interested in Che, and he in her, but their personalities present a more significant obstacle than race or culture. In less adept hands,La Missioncould've become a preachy soap opera, but despite a few creaky plot mechanics, Bratt's attention to detail ensures that his characters register more as sympathetic individuals than stereotypes. He's aided in his efforts by strong performances, ...
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Director: Peter Bratt
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: August 10, 2010
Runtime: 117 minutes
Studio: Screen Media
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