It’s impossible to be openly gay in Sebastian’s small remote hometown in Peru so his homophobic mother, who as the town’s attorney is a person of some importance, gives him money to go and live far away in the US. Now years later having established a new life as a chef in L.A. complete with a house, dog and even a loving husband, things could not be more perfect for him. That is until one day he gets a phone call to tell him that his mother has had a stroke, and so he jumps on a plane and then several dusty old buses to end up back where he first started.
By the time he arrives, his mother is slowly recovering and whilst he stays to help her get better Sebastian has to go way back into the closet and pretend to all his old friends and neighbors that he is straight. Even to his old girlfriend, who sees his return as a chance to take up where they left off before he had hastily beat it out of town all those years ago. She is also nursing a dark secret that when it gets revealed will start to even get Sebastian questioning his life.
As the days pass into weeks, one day Sebastian opens the front door to his mother’s house to discover an unexpected visitor in the shape of his husband Josh who had decided to surprise him and offer his support. His mother is horrified as she knows exactly who Josh is, and by turning up like this makes her confront her son’s sexuality which she had compressed into the back of her mind. Despite Sebastian’s best efforts to pretend that Josh was just a ‘good friend’ the whole neighborhood soon found out, and without exception they all turned against Sebastian and Josh and created some very nasty scenes.
Then his mother’s health took a turn for the worse and she died leaving a grieving town torn between paying their respects but without wanting to be seen to condoning Sebastian and his husband. Just as we assume that we know how this tale should end, Carlos Ciurlizza the writer/director and star, instead gives the movie a bitter sweet ending which is really quite unsettling.
Peruvian LGBT movies are a rare commodity ……to our knowledge this only the 3rd one following Paolo a documentary from 2009, which was also the same year that the award winning Contracorriente (Undertow). The delightful ‘Sebastian’ gives an insightful look into how latino gay men culturally have a different sense of connection to their family and also of the importance they place on the peer pressure of their friends. Ciurlizza expects us to understand and recognize that so we can understand why Sebastian makes these life choices.
A deeply touching story, beautifully filmed with a rather wonderfully talented Peruvian cast : the only less than perfect performance was from a rather wooden Burt Grinstead as the too-earnest Josh.