BENJAMIN BRATT JEREMY RAY VALDEZ ERIKA ALEXANDER
Benjamin Bratt has been acting as long as I can remember and this is one of the few films where he takes center stage. So often actors like Bratt get hidden in so many supporting roles they are never allowed to lead a film. Bratt teams up with his brother Peter Bratt who penned the screenplay and also directs. Benjamin Bratt delivers his finest performance; it’s a piece of originality and honest acting. This is only Peter Bratt’s second feature and I think because of the content and small budget La Mission should be looking at some Independent Spirit Awards come year’s end.
Faced with raising a son on his own in a tough part of San Francisco; Che Rivera (Bratt) works hard on his automobiles, putting stylish low riders back in shape, and driving a bus to pay bills during the day. Che is completely unprepared when he discovers his teenage son Jesse (Valdez) is gay and handles it the wrong way, publicly announcing it to the neighborhood. As people begin to talk, Jesse becomes the target of hate crimes in their small community. Abandoned by his father, Jesse must face his secrets publicly Che tries to accept his son’s choices but his values and difference in opinion doesn’t seem to allow him to manage it, until one of his neighbors begins to point him in the right direction.
Like most powerful dramas, La Mission can be at times tough to watch. It is dramatic ripe with Bratt wading through situations that most parents hope to never face. The direction is simple as is the screenplay; it often cuts directly to the point which puts both the characters and the audience face to face with conflict. Young actor Valdez does a superb job as the gentle natured son, his kind eyes and bad situation inspired mounds of sympathy for his character. It’s Erika Alexander (Déjà Vu) that nearly steals the show with her fearsome attitude and beautiful smile. She grounds the film and provides the much needed feminine touch.
La Mission isn’t trying to make a political statement, at least not in an obvious way. The script examines a unique and difficult situation set in the worst kind of scenarios which is what makes it impossible not to get interested in. While the film certainly has its missed opportunities, for the most part it is engaging and ambitious. Bratt’s character expands on a stereotype we see so often as a background character, we see this father trying to work out something that terrifies him and Bratt appears to understand the emotion of his role. A film festival favorite, La Mission offers up something we don’t see every day.
Final Thought – Performances and the script's dramatic nature make this worthwhile.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Jennifer Gih