TIFF18: Papi Chulo

Sean the weatherman has a meltdown on the air, so he’s sent home for some mandatory personal time off. His partner left him recently, and left a large, unpainted circle on their deck to boot. Pretty, soft-hands Sean (Matt Bomer) is out of his element in the hardware store. He buys the paint with help but the actual painting doesn’t go well, so the next day he trolls the lineup of available day workers and brings home Ernesto.

Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño) doesn’t speak English and Sean doesn’t speak Spanish. Odd couple alert!

The thing about this movie is, it sounds pretty light and predictable. And it is. But that doesn’t do it justice, because in fact it was one of my favourite movies at the festival. And maybe that’s because 90% of the movies I saw were depressing as shit and this one comes with a hint of optimism. But it’s the movie that I needed without knowing I needed it, and I felt like a life line.MV5BMTg1ODNhODQtMTQ3YS00OTY4LTk2OGItZDExZTNiM2VlMWU5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ1MTYzNzY@._V1_

 

Poor Sean. His friends and coworkers see him floundering and all agree that he needs to talk to someone, but to Sean, the act of doing so is the same as admitting that he’s alone and things are bad. He can’t. But he does find himself opening up to Ernesto. Ernesto who continues to be paid $20 an hour for “painting” finds himself hiking the canyons instead, and posing for Instagram pics. Although it looks like friendship, Sean is using Ernesto in at least 2 strange ways:

 

  1. As a therapist. A therapist who is easy to talk to because he can’t understand him, thus there is no fear of judgement.
  2. As a replacement boyfriend. Sean has Ernesto doing couple-y things, like renting a boat to row around the lake, and going to parties where he lets everyone assume they’re dating.

It’s not a great pretext for a relationship of any kind, but it’s done with such sweetness from both sides it’s hard to condemn…until it inevitably escalates. But your heart aches because on some level we all understand this awkward reaching out, the inability to call it what it really is, the denial and the loss that motivates it.

Matt Bomer is very vulnerable in this, he teeters between faux-cheeriness and complete abandon and at times we’re scared for him because he feels like our friend and we see him spinning out. Alejandro Patiño is great too – the perfect mix of skeptical and concerned. I love these two together so much that I don’t want the movie to end. I don’t want Sean to get better, to outgrow a friendship I understand is toxic for him. This movie makes me selfish because it has entertained me and sustained my soul during a dark day of movie watching. Papi Chulo is a huggable movie, perfect for watching in bed with a big bag of pretzels.

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12 thoughts on “TIFF18: Papi Chulo

  1. selizabryangmailcom

    That one sentence summarizes this move perfectly for me: “This movie makes me selfish because it has entertained me and sustained my soul…” Who would need more than that from a movie? Not me.
    I do have an offhand question, though: Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay! How in the name of all that’s holy do you manage to post so many reviews??!!!

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    1. Jay Post author

      I know. We were at a film festival, which means 5 movies a day for me – I can hardly write 2 or 3 reviews a day though, so there’s lots of overflow still to come. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading along. You have no idea how much it means to us!

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  2. Christopher

    This one sounds like it would draw me in and keep me hooked even though I’d have a growing feeling of dread about how badly things are going to go.
    Also it’s kind of fun to take a brief glance at a review and see “Poor”, “Sean”, and “meltdown” and think, gracious, I hope the festival didn’t do him in…

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    1. Jay Post author

      Haha, yes, I worried that would be confusing, but real-life Sean’s meltdown I’m saving for another post 😉
      (actually I think the festival came closer to doing ME in)

      Liked by 1 person

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