‘Tremors’ Review: An Extraordinary Guatemalan Drama About a Gay Man Torn Between Faith and Family

IndieWire | 2/12/2019 | Staff
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There are any number of movies about gay men trying to liberate themselves from the long shadow of heteronormative oppression — a regrettably, enduringly relevant premise — but few have been told with the extraordinary nuance or compassion of Jayro Bustamante’s “Tremors.”

The Guatemalan drama begins where a previous iteration of this drama might have left off. Rather than argue for the hero’s basic humanity (which the film’s contemporary liberal audiences wouldn’t dare to dispute, and its devoutly retrograde antagonists wouldn’t deign to accept), Bustamante moves the goalposts forward by reframing the stakes. There’s never any doubt that Pablo has the right to be with the man he loves, the question is whether the happiness that would bring is worth the hurt that would come with it. And it’s a question that only Pablo can answer for himself.

Tremors

“Tremors”

From its rain-drenched prologue to its pensive final shot, “Tremors” explores whether self-identity is more legibly defined by what people are, or what they are not. Must we shed our sins in order to inch closer to the impossible divine, or can the pursuit of purity be an additive process? Is the fear of loss more profound than the search for love? For those living in the embrace of the evangelical Christian community in a country where homosexuality is legal, but sexually motivated hate crimes are tolerated by the government, it’s clear that achieving manhood is an act of total negation: Being a man requires only that someone not be a woman, nor a child, nor a homosexual. But if Pablo is just the sum total of all the things that he’s not, how can he be expected to think of himself as anything at all?

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