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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Bear Cub (review)

This is one of those neither-here-nor-there movies, the kind that defy genre conventions and attempt to approximate the messiness of real life… the kind of movie we could use a lot more of, even though this one will probably disconcert more viewers than it enthralls. Graphically sexual, in spots, and cozily domestic throughout, this is the tenderly realized tale of Pedro (José Luis García Pérez), a happily bachelor gay man living in Madrid, who agrees to take in his nine-year-old nephew, Bernardo (David Castillo), for two weeks while his mother, Pedro’s sister Violeta (Elvira Lindo), goes off on holiday, and gets stuck with him permanently. Pedro and his wide and contented circle of gay pals are refreshingly down-to-earth — there’s nary an outrageous stereotype among them — as is young Bernardo, a sweet, charming kid who’s appropriately childlike grief at his mother’s unexpected abandonment of him grounds him and so makes all the more believable his rather mature acceptance of his uncle’s sexuality. The film, by Spanish director Luis Miguel Albaladejo (he wrote it with Salvador García Ruiz), doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties homosexuals continue to deal with in the child-rearing arena — Violet’s bitter, estranged mother-in-law (Empar Ferrer) doesn’t think a gay household is the proper place for her grandson — but there is an exhilarating sense of normality in Pedro and Bernardo’s increasingly relationship, from its initial delicacy to its growing depth, that those who value basic human rights for all will welcome.


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MPAA: not rated

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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