By Adam Ray Palmer
Writer and director Jayro Bustamante brings to the Berlinale a story stacked with controversies that this day and age, you’d hope wouldn’t be real.
Temblores, or Tremors in the English language, stars Juan Pablo Olyslager, Mauricio Armas and Diane Bathen as a trio who jostle in an unusual love triangle.
Tremors is set in present-day Guatemala City. Olyslager plays Pablo, a 40-year-old married father of two wonderful children and a practising Evangelical Christian. He’s a “good man” who looks after his children, has a job to pay for them, but he is unfortunately not spared by the lowest temptations.
Pablo is in love with Francisco (played by Armas), a flirtatious man who knows everyone in the city. He’s charismatic, good-looking and has a hold over Pablo. Pablo’s wife Isa, played by Bathen, just wants her normal life back. She decides, along with his family and the church, to help him heal through anti-homosexual therapy.
The film is nearly two hours long, and the revealing moment that Pablo is confirmed gay stands at 47 minutes in. I know this because I timed it, but don’t get me wrong, you gather that he is gay very early on. However, his sexuality is deemed as an ‘illness’ and ‘shameful’ so for me living in a place where this more commonly isn’t the case, you need it confirming.
You see his homosexuality on screen from three different angles. You have his own angle; a tormented anguish that he knows he is gay, but he is being told not accept it. You have his wife’s/family’s angle; they are longing for a pain-free and normal life where he is a strong, family man. And then thirdly, his children’s angle; who just long for their father to be around. They are told he is ‘sick’ yet they don’t believe it and just want to see him. There’s a tender scene between the son and daughter where she says to the son “he may catch it (become homosexual) later on in life” – it’s a very innocent way of looking at this prejudice.
It’s an important tale to tell, detailing that they are places in the world that need to adapt and catch up with modern times. It’s ludicrous to think how many people have so many opinions and feelings on something so irrelevant to them. I understand here in this film his homosexuality has ripped apart his core family, but his wife is more appalled by how society will look at her than her actual marriage ending.
For me, this film as a whole gives its message, but I would have preferred more time exploring the Pastor’s ridiculous ‘curing therapy’. The movie just leaves me thinking how far the world is still yet to come. As the film states, “God may like the sinner, but he hates sin” … maybe it’s best we all just stop the fun stuff, get off social media, tell everyone we are fine and live our lives in caves to mitigate risk. I guess someone would still call us weird.
Cineroom’s rating: 3 stars
Tremors is released in France in May 2019. UK distributors are yet to pick the film up.