Gun Hill Road (2011) Poster

(2011)

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10/10
Beautiful powerful film
EP-C23 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a lovely, thoughtful, honest portrait of trans youth. Showcases an amazing breakout performance by the incredibly talented transgendered actress Harmony Santana. The film follows her journey as she dates her first boy, hangs out with friends in the Bronx, and learns how to cope with the disapproval of her extremely macho father (Esai Morales). Esai delivers one of the most powerful performances of his career as the wounded, angry father, who was recently released from prison, and is now struggling to reconcile his notions of gender with his love for his child. Beautifully shot. Well written. Sensitively directed. Never veers towards melodrama or clichés. And the supporting cast is equally strong. Highly recommended.
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10/10
Gun Hill Road! A Must See!
Gloria Ramos14 August 2011
I saw Gun Hill Road on it's opening day in LA and WOW! I am a huge supporter of Independent Filmmakers and this one will not disappoint! This film is an honest peek into a families life; a story that will cause any parent to step back and re-evaluate what unconditional love requires. All love to Rashaad Ernesto Green for being such a gifted Director! The performances by Esai Morales, Judy Reyes and newcomer Harmony Santana are Oscar worthy. Take a break from the mainstream films and see this heartfelt independent film. From beginning to end, Gun Hill Road is a must see! I loved it so much, I'm taking a friend to see it again tomorrow!
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Breakthrough film explores timeless themes in a fresh context
Julian Kaufmann18 July 2011
Gun Hill Road is a powerful, courageous and deeply moving film. From start to finish, this magnificently-directed and captivating story feels 100% real and completely original. Gun Hill Road vibrantly depicts large, growing and yet almost completely unexplored contexts within American culture. This film evocatively addresses essential, timely and yet timeless human themes: our identity; our character; our family; our priorities and how we all struggle to balance these.

Obtaining brilliant, genuine performances from the entire cast throughout this well-layered plot, Rashaad Ernesto Green has clearly distinguished himself as an important new director to watch. What most distinctively succeeds in Green's full-length feature debut is the way one can connect emotionally with virtually EVERY character in this film. Esai Morales, Judy Reyes and newcomer Harmony Santana deliver profoundly multi-dimensional portrayals.

The ultimate proof of a sophisticated director resides in their ability to transport you into settings about which you may know little, but somehow enables you to raise challenging questions and emerge with new insights. Gun Hill Road is truly a breakthrough film from an exceptional director.
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10/10
Just Incredible...
dukedelta8 February 2011
This movie was powerful! The rich, complex, tense family dynamics really drove realism and a deep engagement with the characters. I love Esai Morales, and this has to be one of the most stunning things I have seen him in, as he's working all the dimensions of his character's struggle to face what has changed in his life. My previous exposure to Judi Reyes was through "Scrubs". She really made you forget her old character Carla to display a a woman struggling with conflict and sacrifice. The entire cast was outstanding and authentic. Harmony Santana was just incredible in his transformation. An excellent, excellent movie, can't wait to see it in broader distribution!
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10/10
A must see for anyone who cares about life or filmmaking.
dtbradshaw26 February 2011
Brilliant, searing filmmaking. This is brutally honest, courageous work on all levels - exquisite storytelling that challenges, uplifts, tickles, and inspires even when addressing the depths of human despair, disappointment, uncertainty, and discouragement.

"Gun Hill Road" is an important first feature offering. It is not for the emotionally faint of heart. On the other hand, vulnerability and tenderness abound in every aching moment.

The performances are powerful and right on target. The filmmaking itself is nothing short of premium in every area. Shot under a modest budget, this film brings the craft to new heights. This movie does not back down. It's in your face. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you cheer that such truth on the screen is, after all, possible.
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10/10
A film with a Heart
This is a film with a Heart! A story inspired by the true events of everyday life. Director Rashaad Ernesto Green managed to write and direct an extraordinary film and making cinema history while discovering an amazing new talent. Harmony Santana. There are these exceptional rare times in history when someone as haunting as Harmony Santana is discovered, and their eternal beauty and youth forever captured in our minds. I can think of only one actor who ever accomplished that, Jaye Davidson. With amazing work from all cast, these film shows that it is possible to make good movies with limited budget and time constraints! A definitely MUST SEE!!
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10/10
Love takes it own path; not always easy or pretty.
scbradbury24 February 2011
This is a lovely and sensitive story about family, and how we all have to stand as who we truly are. It is a wonderful mix of emotions and how we can love someone and not want the pain they may being into our lives. The actors work is outstanding, in part because the writer/director is an actor and really knows how to communicate with his excellent cast. It doesn't take you by the hand and lead you from point A to point B, but rather lets you put the pieces together in a way that makes sense for you, and then see how well the throughline you have constructed fits the film. You don't get to just sit back and be mindlessly entertained; it's a much richer experience that that, and all the better for it. Take this journey, and you may never get back to the exact place where you started. You end up a little too changed for that.
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10/10
The best drama at Sundance 2011!
MajorFilms26 January 2011
Hard to predict if the Sundance jury will vote for GUN HILL ROAD or not. But as an attendee who has screened virtually all of the other films in dramatic competition at this year's Sundance (2011), I can confidently state, hands down, that GUN HILL ROAD deserves to win. For what it's worth, I was one of only a handful of posters last year who accurately predicted the win for WINTERS BONE in the Dramatic competition (2010). GUN HILL ROAD, set in New York City's Bronx borough and primarily along the heavily traveled, real-life street of the same name, is the latest example of the outstanding performance skills of Esai Morales. He is long overdue for major awards acknowledgment and this film looks like a solid contender to be his ticket back into major awards consideration.
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9/10
Very different family story!
bobsu112 August 2011
Super strong directorial debut as well as a standout performance from a fresh young star-to-be. GUN HILL ROAD deals with important and tough issues with impressive impact. Judy Reyes and Esai Morales portray a wonderful set of Latino parents for a troubled teen in New York City played by Harmony Santana. Without giving away any big plot points, this family has a lot on its plate and for the most part they come out on the other end stronger and more together. This film is already the darling of the festival circuit and in a just world, it will end the year with awards and accolades galore. And remember the name HARMONY SANTANA!
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A Triptych of Trials, Tribulations and Redemption: Movie Review of Gun Hill Road
tmychronicles7 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Within minutes we are thrust into a community and family welcoming home its prodigal son, and it is in this pivotal moment the lives of three family members begin to unfold. Enrique, a father and ex-con, attempts re-entry into a world and family who define him more by his absence than his present potential. As husband and patriarch, he works arduously toward the reconciliation between past and present. The mother, Angela, negotiates marriage and motherhood; despite her sacrifices both to make do with and make ends meet with scrapes of life offered, she pangs for her own happiness and completion. Michael, the teenage son, seeks confirmation of his transgendered self within worlds that work relentlessly to objectify his outer beauty and extinguish his inner beauty. The three have the best intentions to reunite, but each one's resistant to being hurt again. It won't be easy, but each is resilient to press through harm into hope.

Director and writer Rashaad Ernesto Green creates a screenplay that steers away from clichés and stereotypes, instead constructing and vivifying characters with layered complexity. The experiences of the characters with incarceration,transgenderism, masculinity, fatherhood, and infidelity are not treated as one-dimensional, but in nuanced relationship with each other. Enrique's time in jail haunts him even after he gets out, which manifests in both his challenge to again consummate his marriage and the unconventional means he employs to "bring his son around." Michael is a teenager struggling to balance his self esteem and self assuredness. He accepts who he is, and wants others to do the same. His struggles for acceptance are detailed through poetic pleas for recognition during open mics, the give and take of one-sided relationships, the guardedness of the fraternity of his community, and the mirror he is both trying to find and resist within his father. Angela's sacrificial fidelity to institutions and relatives are juxtaposed by her love interest in Enrique's absence, being sole provider within an economic and familial gap, and the unconditional promotion and protection of their son. Green skillfully avoids insulting the audience by telling a story already told. The film instead invites us into an authentic witnessing of the contemplation and work of three family members trying to gravitate toward individual and familial wholeness. Brutal truths are relayed with unflinching transparency.

Green's choice of storytelling in his first full feature film, complemented by its cinematography earns him kudos. His courageous storytelling is such that other filmmakers may be too reluctant to discuss. Gun Hill Road was a finalist for the Jury Award at the 2011 Sundance Festival. Melding one part memoir, one part journalism, one part documentary, with one part novel, Green bends and blends genres to create a fictitious masterpiece. He skillfully mimics the gritty eloquent narration of "The Wire," the journalistic feel of "Law and Order," the familial realism of PBS's "An American Family" with the unapologetic and blatantly beautiful truth telling of Lee Daniel's "Precious." Careful not to typecast, Green's cinematic truism lies in his inventive work in sequencing the story so that it flows like a trilogy of three distinct narratives, yet harmonizes them to illustrate the portrait of a family. In this novel movie, the Bronx is its own complex character, captured and depicted well by Gun Hill Road's alleys and corners for marking identity and reclaiming one's self, its' congestion of buildings, the parks where people make and break relationships, serving as an oxymoronic mattress of rest, and even its brilliance in sunrise and twilight I fondly remember witnessing when growing up there in the 70s and 80s.

The cast transcended acting well. They brought to life characters so convincing they reminded me of the people I pass on my way to work in schools in the Bronx. Veteran Judy Reyes and breakout actor Harmony Santana do hard work to convey with balance and integrity the vulnerable and resilient spirits of their characters without indulging caricature and stereotype. The supporting cast complements their work, from the beatdowns to the buildups of the lead characters, with realism. A special "shout out" has to go to Esai Morales, who as the main character and supporter of Green got behind the potential of this movie, and as an inexhaustible dynamo brought it to fruition. A veteran actor who has garnered acclaim for working in several movies and television shows, and recognition as a self-defined "actorvist," his talent is given full bloom and due justice in this film. An actor who surgically brings out the grit and grim of Enrique, yet portrays his vulnerability and frustration with equal precision, Morales's performance should receive the highest acclaim during award season.

Gun Hill Road is a must see movie. As an audience member, I found myself intrigued and engrossed within minutes. The movie unapologetically and unhesitatingly thrusts you into a world of mistakes, misguided intentions, and devotion. Viewing this movie is an unflinching experience where Green, Morales, the cast, and The Bronx make you privy to the joys and pains of life. It is a rare film that provides you intimate access to the inner workings of relationships: those recoiled and renegotiated between family members, those individuals reconcile within themselves, and those carefully (and at times carelessly) brokered and navigated with the world. The familial and personal skirmishes are not oversimplified. They illustrate the workings of humans and spirits trying to come back to center. The movie is one of contrasts, relentless in its confrontation of bitter hard truths and the beauty of life, while relaying both reverently and tastefully.

Spoiler alert: the movie does not dishonor or disrespect the audience with a conventional Hollywood story or ending. It shows homage to life on an urban landscape, and delivers as such.

Gun Hill Road is currently in limited release in New York City and Los Angeles. We need to seem more films like this, with minority filmmakers who know how to tell their own stories.
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8/10
A Well-Balanced Mofango
bohioprop29 March 2013
I had heard buzz about this film; but personally it was hard to imagine how the talents of this combination of actors would gel. This production bravely walks a tightrope of emotions within a family, community and culture that without proper balance would have come off as trite, biased -- or worse: a mess of conflicting emotions. In some ways it reminded me of "La Mission" which had a similar theme but a different approach. How do you address the topics of machismo, trans-sexuality and role definition within any family -- let alone a Latino family faced with the pressures of a multi-faceted big city culture? The director, Rasheed Green, to his credit, gives the audience a time inside the minds of each of the characters; and by the middle of this 86 minute drama it was clear he had the right recipe. It reminded me of making "Mofango" -- a delicious PR dish replete with garlic, herbs spices and textures: if anything is out-of-balance, it throws off the entire preparation! This production has the right blend of all the ingredients.
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8/10
First time writer/director's tale of parolee's conflict with trans-gender son, hits the mark
Turfseer12 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
'Gun Hill Road' is a Spirit Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress. It's writer/director Rashaad Ernesto Green's first effort at a feature film and one comes away very impressed by the overall professional package he has created here. The film is about a macho parolee, Enrique (winningly played by Esai Morales) who has just come home from state prison and can't accept the fact that his son Michael is now trans-gender.

Michael (who also calls herself Vanessa) is played by Harmony Santana, who had no prior acting experience before making this film. The central conflict revolves around Enrique and Michael's relationship. In a Q&A I attended, Director Green indicated that in part, he wrote the film to perhaps make an impression on those who have no tolerance for those who embrace alternative lifestyles. Enrique is depicted as a hardened soul, who had to fend off sexual advances while in prison from other inmates and now is ashamed that his son so easily rejects his own heterosexuality. Green wisely depicts Enrique's rejection of Michael's lifestyle as more psychological than physical. In a powerful scene, Enrique cuts off long locks of Michael's hair after finding sexually suggestive photos of him inside the home.

Another excellent scene which depicts the psychological harm Enrique inflicts on Michael is when he takes him to see a prostitute. The experience leaves Michael deeply wounded, as he ends up in the shower sobbing, while simultaneously cleaning himself off from his contact with the prostitute (contact which repulses him). Michael's only real support is from his mother, Angela, played by Judy Reyes, who does an excellent job as a woman torn between her love for tough guy husband Enrique and an auto mechanic boyfriend she was seeing while Enrique was in prison. In fact, it's the boyfriend's apartment that Michael runs off to for a brief time, after he can no longer tolerate his father's abuse.

Green doesn't sugar coat Michael's character either. Not only does Michael have to contend with his father's lack of acceptance, but finds that a new 'boyfriend' is only using her for sex. After sharing intimate moments (which includes an anal sex scene which Michael does not enjoy), she finally convinces the boyfriend to take her out to dinner (so that the two can now enjoy a more normal relationship). The boyfriend acts completely uncomfortable at dinner with Michael and doesn't stick up for her when she's taunted by neighborhood thugs on the street. Michael also resorts to self-defeating behavior by undergoing dangerous silicon injections at the hands of an underground, unlicensed practitioner.

In addition to the escalating tension as Enrique becomes more enraged over his son's sexuality, there are a number of subplots that add to the texture of the overall narrative. These subplots mainly involve Enrique's descent back into criminality: his loss of a job, participation in a robbery, failure to meet with his parole officer and a violent assault on the inmate who he had a confrontation with, back when he was incarcerated.

'Gun Hill Road' suffers only from a plot that primarily focuses on a father's one-note obsession. With other directors, this might have become an unwelcome, drawn out affair. But Director Green does an excellent job of bringing out all the nuances of his tragic, misguided protagonist with the help of the veteran, seasoned actor, Esai Morales.

'Gun Hill Road' feels like it was directed by someone with quite a good deal of experience in the film world. But the reality is, this is Director Rashaad Ernesto Green's first feature. Not only is he adept with the technical aspects of film making, but also knows how to work with his actors. I am convinced that Mr. Green will eventually become a top notch director in the American film industry.
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10/10
Amazing film
ommodelinc20111 April 2011
Standout cast:

Judy Reyes stellar performance, Esai Morales groundbreaking, Harmony Santana breakout star. The supporting cast simply amazing as well. Spectacular film. In the tradition of I like it like that, Girlfight and Gwen Arajo.

True, real and no pretty ending as is life. There is still much work to be done with issues revolving around family and differences. This was a good dialogue about a story which exists in our culture and is not often spoken about. I hope this film leads to more visibility for families who are in similar situations. With love anything is possible and I think that was the message in this story.
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10/10
Gun Hill Road is a work of art, fine art--a masterpiece
michelle basha24 May 2011
OMG. WOW!!What an amazing film. I saw it at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Loved the cast. Authentic. Very powerful, moving story. Had my attention from the get go. Didn't want to miss a second of it. It had me feeling for, whom I perceive to be, the two main characters and what each person was going through. I have always been a fan of Esai Morales now I am also a fan of Rashaad Ernesto Green. I loved this film so much that I have been spreading the word upon exiting the theatre and will continue to do so until everyone I know has been told. I will also be attending its theatrical release. I can't wait to see it again. It was so great I left wanting more. Definitely one for my personal collection.
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8/10
Great film, terrible title
Jim Chevallier20 January 2012
The title has so little to do with what actually happens in this film and is so suggestive of some kind of rural drama that I just have to say: "WHAT were they thinking?". (I'm a native New Yorker, by the way, and even I didn't know this was a key neighborhood in the Bronx.) Otherwise, this is a powerful, sure-footed film which very often leaves things not quite spoken, down to the precise, powerful ending. It is, in its way, a pendant to "Pariah", though more specifically about transgender issues. Above all, what makes it work is the tremendous love one feels between all the characters here, well beyond any stereotypes. Harmony Santana has arrived. plain and simple, and arrived with a multi- colored splash. Esai Morales (who gets credit right off as one executive producer) does a marvelous job of showing a father who loves his son with all his heart but has a constellation of reasons for not being able to accept the changes he was not there to see. Judy Reyes shows passionate ambivalence as her character tries to balance love for several different people in inherently conflictual relationships. Everybody, including his prison nemesis (Robert Salzman) and his parole officer ((Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), is perfectly cast (by Sig de Miguel and Stephen Vincent). Its subject and its subtlety make this an indie film in spirit, but it retains all the best techniques of strong, straight-ahead story-telling.
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10/10
Redemption is the greatest love of all...
Sean21 September 2011
When going into seeing Gun Hill Road my expectations were kinda low. Mostly because I seen so many of these type of movies that I thought I knew how these movies worked. Gun Hill Road changed my perception of that, because it had one thing that many movies are missing: Emotion and this what lead it to be the best movie I seen this year.

Rashaad Ernesto Green did a wonderful job setting the tone of the world that both father and son, played by Esai Morales and Harmony Santana respectfully, travel and letting us the viewer follow both of them down their roads.

Gun Hill Road is such an amazing movie that if you get a chance to see it, GO! You will not be wasting your time on such an amazing story about family, redemption and being accepted.
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10/10
Achingly Beautiful
Monica Hope1 April 2011
Rashaad Ernesto Green delivers a poignantly portrayed story of family in a struggle of acceptance not generally understood by the populace. A well written script executed with precision and depth by Esai Morales, Judy Reyes and Harmony, it is refreshingly in your face, raw and honest.

The film balances comedy, pain, love and tears remarkably well and strips away the veil of a somewhat uncomfortable story. I particularly enjoyed Esai Morales. Throughout the film I felt he could explode at any moment and he was masterful at both containing it and revealing that nature.

Gun Hill Road will shatter your misperceptions, make you think, cause laughter, evoke remembrance, break your heart, mend it sideways, and leave you sighing. Bravo Rashaad, Bravo!
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10/10
Ground Breaking Movie that Simple Hasn't Been Done Before
fromagelover113 May 2011
Shedding light on a topic that simply isn't in the public eye enough, I can say wholeheartedly that Gun Hill Road has opened the door for more trans-films.

Harmony Santana as Vanessa did a magnificent job promoting the fact that you should never be afraid of the person you want to be.

Although it can be a struggle, remaining true to yourself is all the reward one needs.

I felt privileged to see a screening in March, and cannot wait to see how this film does in Theaters.

I congratulate everyone who had a part in the successful creation of Gun Hill road, and I hope this is not the last we've seen of Harmony Santana!
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6/10
Honest Interpretation
ewb504828 July 2013
The plot of the movie is what drew me to see this film. Just finally saw it and it is a good film, but it left me feeling like "eh, that's it?" Acting was sub-par to OK. I wasn't convinced for Harmony's acting. It felt too generic flat, which sucks since the premise of the movie is about her/him. The movie also failed, in my opinion to dive deeper to the situation at hand. The focus of the movie was in between Enrique and Michael but it had nothing to do with each other which didn't make me care that much for either of them. And the ending? Ugh... where is it? Overall, I was expecting a real dramatic movie. It still is an OK film, it kept me watching to see what will happen, but the acting and writing could have been much better. And I'm still wondering why its call Gun Hill Road.
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4/10
Could of been much better
asauk-690-17619219 May 2013
Really had potential and the subject matter was original and different but was left with a feeling that it was never exploited well enough. Shame, the ending left a lot to be desired and all the characters and conflicting ideals were hardly skimmed on enough to make you feel emotionally moved, the whole thing was just loosely strung together with no real direction or confrontation.

Sure other people have a different opinion but we watched this as a group of 6 and all felt the same. To sum it up, on a plus i personally thought the acting was pretty good by individual actors the direction was average and the script needed that little bit more.
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10/10
Ratings summary seems to be wrong - all 9 or 10
RobAM21 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This film is a accurate portrayal of a family dealing with some very real situations and years of prejudice that are a way of life. The whole jail/parole situation is so accurately presented it is almost spooky, though not many who see the film will know that. There are some amazing performances that deserve to be seen. This is not everybody's family or every family's response, but it is one that should be seen. I was very fortunate to walk into the theater and bump directly into Esai Morales who was sharing his experience of making getting ready to make this film while going through a pregnancy with his wife. The subject matter of the film brought up the question of what they, as a family, would do if their child was gay. His wife gave a humorous response but it reflected a warmth and understanding that you would hope every family could display. In this film his character finally breaks through his prejudice only to be a victim of the system he has allowed himself to become a part of. Sad and inspiring at the very same time.
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Best film I've seen all year
aaron_holiday20046 August 2011
This is by far one the most relevant and powerful movies I've seen all year. The acting was fantastic, the story was well told, and the cinematography pulled me into the film. Keep up the fantastic work and I am looking forward to seeing more. The story captured the complexity of a world that most people in present day society are not exposed to. I am really pleased that this film painted a picture of life in the Bronx. It is my hope that other film makers are inspired by this work and continue to produce similar work for other untold stories.

BTW...there are already people asking about purchasing this film on DVD. Keep us posted on!
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Gun Hill Road = A Must See!
thelisaspot23 July 2011
I just saw this movie tonight, a few hours ago at the LALIFF. Gun Hill Road is a great movie, a must see. I give the rating a 10 because I haven't seen a movie like this before. I can not personally relate, but in this case it didn't matter. It made me really think about society, our views our ego's. A great job of showing the transitions, the family as a whole. The father then the son. It's nice to walk away from a movie and still be thinking about it, and the message hours later. I felt for all the main characters. Nice to see something that hasn't been done before. This film is digital, I enjoyed the look and the feel.I will watch it again. Everyone should see this movie.
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Powerful and unforgettable
janebouey20 August 2011
This movie played at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Immediately following the film, someone tweeted "Go, hug your kids. Now. Tell them they are perfect just the way they are." I think that indicates the power of this film. It very difficult to articulate how strongly I feel about Gun Rod Hill. It is heart wrenching, and yet leaves the viewer with such a sense of hope. The characters are well written, and portrayed. More than any other film I have seen, I was left with a sense that these were people that I know, and a community I have actually visited. Even minor characters were interesting and fully developed. What an extraordinary film. Truly powerful and unforgettable.
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Coming of Age story about a father trying to be a father and a son finding himself.
beecansing12 August 2011
I just came back from seeing Gun Hill Road. Im a native of The Bronx NY and pass Gun Hill Road all the time so when i heard about this film, not knowing of the plot i had to see it. It was a great film tho i thought the ending cut the story short it still served as a great story about the struggles of a boy finding his identity in a world where he may not be accepted even by his own father if you can call him that in the film. This film is a must see for all races and sexual preferences.It was definitely an eye opener to me about how family should embrace one another through anything. Parents especially with gay children should see this film together, which i think will bring families closer together.
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