I didn’t originally plan to go see this movie, since it looked a little too grim and gritty for my taste. But then I ended up winning tickets at the Summer Fling grass tournament last week so hey, I guess I was going to see it after all!
Gun Hill Road is the story of three people: Enrique, recently out of prison and trying to rebuild his life; his bright and creative son Michael, who is transitioning into Vanessa; Enrique’s wife Angela, the ever-suffering voice of reason, determined to keep the family together and protect Vanessa.
I was right, this was definitely a challenging movie. Enrique’s stubborn macho pride crashes head-on into Vanessa’s insistence to live life her own way, and the hard realities of working for a living and putting up with idiot bosses.
And, even more tragically, Enrique wastes no time getting together with his old posse, and getting up to the same tricks that got him sent “up North” in the first place. Even worse was beating the crap out of another ex-con, which ended up getting him arrested again. There’s a lot that wasn’t said, but it’s implied that Enrique was raped in prison, more pain that a macho guy like him can only express through violence and fierce control.
Not that Vanessa comes out a whole lot better, in my opinion, because she also does a whole lot of stupid shit. Some of it can be excused by her youth and naivete, but really, getting shot up with bootleg hormones and whatever the hell that stuff was to give her a fuller ass? On the other hand, her experience with her boyfriend was as much exploring her sexuality as anything else, and she does eventually find self-respect.
Enrique and Vanessa do eventually take the first steps towards reconciliation, or at least lack of conflict, but by then it’s far too late. And I started wondering, was this all for nothing? Has Enrique made too many mistakes that he can no longer find his way? Has Vanessa learned anything from their brief truce, or is she more convinced than ever that her life’s better off without an overbearing father? A bit depressing, maybe, but that’s life. There are no easy answer, only choices, and their consequences.