Dona Herlinda and Her Son (1985)
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American gay guys of today, particularly younger guys, may find some scenes bizarre if not unbelievable. The dancing scenes at Lake Chalapa, for example. Trust me, it's the way things were. Having lived in Mexico some twenty years before this film was made, I can say with confidence that it depicts a slice of Mexican society in true-to-life fashion.
I enjoyed this movie quite a lot, and not just because the setting was somewhat nostalgic for me. I wasn't entirely sure where the movie was heading at any point, and to me, that's a sure mark of a good movie.
"Dona Herlinda y su hijo" is a film that presents a situation in Mexico, that could well be universal throughout Latin America and other societies where the macho mentality produce situations such as the one we witness in the film. Director Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, working on a short story by Jorge Lopez Paez, which we never read, presents us a slice of the bourgeois society in which admitting that a son is gay, is a social catastrophe. Families of a certain social status resort to hide the fact by pretending everything is all right. In most cases, they marry the son in order to hide the truth, as seems to be what Dona Herlinda does with Rodolfo.
Of course, much water has gone under the bridge from the time when this movie was made and more and more people open up to accept the same people they would have condemned for being honest about their sexual preferences, instead of staying in the closet and making things much worse because their actions would hurt innocent persons.
The situation in the film involves the love affair between Rodolfo, a neurosurgeon who specializes in pediatric medicine, and a musical student, Ramon. The evolved Dona Herlinda, who obviously must know what is really going on between her son and Ramon, invites the young man to move to her large house in Guadalajara, and even suggests he should share Rodolfo's bed.
Rodolfo, who must cover his true nature, begins to see Olga, a young woman from his same circle. He proposes and marries her, breaking Ramon's heart in the process. Dona Herlinda, who is more intelligent than she is given credit for, pulls strings to keep Ramon at her home and decides to expand the house so that Rodolfo and Olga can move in with the grandson and live together happily ever after.
Of course, the film is in simple terms a fun story, but deep inside it touches a lot of themes that have been taboo in so many societies. Usually mothers aren't as accepting as this Dona Herlinda, who acts as a procurer for the son she loves by inviting the young lover, Ramon, to come live with her.
The acting by all the principals is well paced under Mr. Hermosillo's tight direction. Best of all is Guadalupe Del Toro, who is seen in the key role of Herlinda. Arturo Meza, Marco Antonio Trevino and Leticia Lupercio are also good.
The only thing we would have wished was a better quality DVD, rather than the one that has been made for commercial distribution.