Film Reviews: Wednesday, April 12, 2006
La Mujer de mi Hermano
Starring Bárbara Mori, Christian Meier, and Manolo Cardona. Directed by Ricardo de Montreuil. Written by Jaime Bayly, based on his own novel. Rated R.
And Your Brother Too

For Latin moviegoers only, La Mujer de mi Hermano breaks an important silence.


SPOILER ALERT: This review gives

away major plot twists.

t won’t surprise you to learn that movies that breach taboo subjects tend to be less sophisticated and nuanced than the ones that deal with those subjects years later. Jonathan Demme’s 1993 film Philadelphia looks quaint and ham-handed now, but without it we wouldn’t have had Brokeback Mountain. So it is with the Spanish-language La Mujer de mi Hermano, which breaks down some significant barriers as far as Latin cinema goes but will look crude to casual moviegoers who’ve seen this story before in American pop culture.

The first half of the movie plays as a straight Mexican soap opera, even though the director and screenwriter are both Peruvian. Ignacio (Christian Meier) and Zoe (Bárbara Mori) are a prosperous Mexico City couple whose sex life is in the deep freeze. Ignacio wears glasses and listens to Bach, so obviously he can’t satisfy a woman. That’s probably why she takes up with Ignacio’s brother Gonzalo (Manolo Cardona), a shaggy-haired successful artist whose lengthy experience with bedding other women means he knows how to rock her world.

The movie’s setting us up for a big twist midway through, but it takes too long getting there and doesn’t adequately prepare us for the revelation that Ignacio is gay and deeply in denial about it. Nor does it lay the groundwork for the more sensational news that Ignacio molested Gonzalo when they were both young. Pedro Almodóvar’s movies have addressed this subject in far more sophisticated terms, but his works are more appreciated in the non-Spanish-speaking world than they are in Latin America. For that part of the world, La Mujer de mi Hermano is a more mainstream film taking up the subject and as such is a small and necessary step forward.

Yet Jaime Bayly’s script doesn’t draw these characters with the sort of complexity that American audiences are used to. (Perhaps this is different with Bayly’s novel, on which the movie’s based. I couldn’t find a copy of it.) On the contrary, the characters are all prone to extremely immature behavior, far beyond what’s called for by their situation. The voice of reason here is Zoe’s openly and flamboyantly gay friend Boris (Bruno Bichir), and the movie needed more of this character. The plot doesn’t take any surprising or even very logical directions after the big disclosures, and Zoe’s decision to stay with Ignacio makes for a depressing conclusion; their future will surely make Ennis’ marriage to Alma in Brokeback Mountain seem like sheer wedded bliss by comparison.

At least director Ricardo de Montreuil and cinematographer Andrés Sánchez make this movie a pleasure to look at. Ignacio and Zoe’s sleek modernist house is photographed in all its sun-dappled glory. The same goes for Mori, a Mexican actress who owes her exotic beauty to her Japanese-Uruguayan extraction. (Check out those delicately arched eyebrows!) She’s so hot, you can easily believe that any man who was married to her and didn’t want to have sex with her would have some major issues. We’ll have to be content with things like that while waiting for Latin American movies to give the themes in La Mujer de mi Hermano the treatment that they deserve.

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