Film Review – Papi Chulo

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There are some films I knew very little about on booking them at last year’s London Film Festival and Papi Chulo was one of them. Having recently seen Matt Bomer on stage in Boys In The Band on Broadway and being impressed by his heartfelt performance, I decided to buy a ticket for this and I’m so pleased that I did.

Papi Chulo is a beautiful film, which reaches out to its audience regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation and that’s because the themes within it are universal – love, friendship, loneliness and that feeling of being adrift in life, not quite knowing where to go next, yet learning how to move forward, no matter how impossible it may seem.

The film centres on Sean, a young LA weatherman, who one day breaks down on live television in the middle of a forecast. The result – he’s put on leave, out of concern for him and the image of the network. His first task on arriving home is to sell the beautiful potted tree on his outdoor deck; a purchase made by his ex Carlos; someone whose absence is weighing heavily on him and who he is struggling to be without, frequently leaving him voicemails and staring at his photo on his phone.

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Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patino & writer/director John Butler at the London Film Festival 2018

Clearly a little lost and yearning for company, he enlists the help of a middle-aged Latino migrant worker, Ernesto, who he sees waiting for work with a group of others by the local hardware store. He’s tasked with the simple job of touching up the paint on Sean’s deck, yet what follows is a heart-warming friendship of sorts.

Muddling through on their limited knowledge of their respective languages, we see how very different men from very different lives make an impact on each other and the film works so well largely because of the genuine warmth and connection between Bomer and Alejandro Patino who plays Ernesto.

Writer (and director) John Butler’s script perfectly balances the more emotional moments of the film, with the more light-hearted, comedic scenes, particularly captured through Ernesto’s initial confusion and then bemusement at the surreal connection he is forming with Sean, which he conveys to his wife Linda via amusing phone calls, updating her on his days, which shift from painting and sanding, to spending time simply keeping Sean company. A scene in which he takes Ernesto for a row boat ride is particularly fun.

The film needs you to care about its central character and you certainly do through Bomer’s beautiful performance. His ability to express Sean’s vulnerability and openness of emotion as the film moves forward and we learn more about him and his ex, enables the audience to truly connect with and invest in Sean’s life and hope he’s able to find his way through and when the dam breaks alongside the LA drought, you feel the emotional release Sean experiences.

This film was a true highlight of the films I saw last year. It reminded me how we’re all capable of helping each other through simple acts of kindness and its heartwarming and positive message that simple human kindness can exist between us irrespective of our differences, whether language or background, is a very welcome one in these strange, difficult times.

If it’s in a cinema near you this year, I strongly recommend you buying a ticket.

Papi Chulo currently has an initial release date in the USA of 8th March 2019. UK release date is not yet confirmed. 

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