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Review: A Guatemalan father comes out in ‘Temblores,’ but his family and church want him back in

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Juan Pablo Olysager as Pablo in “Temblores.” Credit: Film Movement
(Film Movement )

In his follow-up to his award-winning 2016 debut, “Ixcanul” Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante returns with the deeply personal “Tremors” (“Temblores”), a penetrating, mournful portrait of sexual identity in contemporary Guatemala City.

When we are first introduced to Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager), the father of two young children, he is navigating a foreboding, pounding rainfall driving back to his gated home.

But that downpour pales alongside the torrential lashing that will engulf the quiet consultant and his affluent, devout Evangelical parents in the aftermath of his earlier revelation that he intends to leave his wife (Diane Bathen) for another man (Mauricio Armas Zebadúa).

Initially refusing to refute his long-closeted feelings despite pressure from family members (“Don’t tell me that you don’t know how to lie,” admonishes his father), Pablo ultimately succumbs to his church’s punishing conversion therapy program after being treated like a pariah, fired from his job and court-ordered to stay away from his children.

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There’s certainly little joy to be found in the repressed Pablo’s ill-fated journey of self-acceptance as writer-director Bustamante takes acute aim at religious persecution as personified by his church’s strident pastor (an effectively icy Sabrina De La Hoz).

In its absence are persistent truths surrounding a society where the measure of a man, in the eyes of the filmmaker, remains stubbornly tied to a patriarchal machismo that continues to shun enlightenment.

‘Tremors’
(In Spanish with English subtitles)

Not rated

Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Playing: Laemmle’s Royal, West Los Angeles

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