‘La Mission’ is by far one of the best feel-good movies of the young year. The charm and warmth of its ensemble cast sets it apart from the rest of the films I’ve seen of 2010. Benjamin Bratt delivers what I consider the best performance of his career, and even though Ben’s writer/director brother, Peter Bratt’s direction doesn’t raise eyebrows, the script holds an allure that is contagious and genuine.
‘La Mission’ is the story of Che Rivera, played wonderfully by Benjamin Bratt, a San Francisco bus driver respected in his Mission district barrio for building beautiful low rider cars, yet feared for his tough and machismo ways. A reformed inmate and recovering alcoholic, Che’s path to redemption is tested when he discovers that his pride and joy– his only child, Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez) is gay. In a homophobic rage, Che violently beats his son, disowning him. Out of pride, Che loses his son – the “best friend he’s got” – and once again loses himself. Emotionally broken and vulnerable, Che is left isolated and alone. In a cathartic moment on the mean streets of the Mission, Che realizes that his patriarchal pride is meaningless to him, and that in order to maintain it, he has sacrificed the one thing that he cherishes most – love.
For those thinking that this is a Latino film, it is not. It never felt like one. It is just an American story about a specific subculture of people, in this case Chicanos, going through issues in their neighborhood of Mission, San Francisco. That they happen to be of Latino descent is irrelevant. Anyone, of any background can enjoy this film. It’s actually as American as it gets. My view of America isn’t ‘Leave it Beaver’ or ‘Father Knows Best,’ it’s this movie.
The story’s genuineness and humility pierces right through the screen. Its simplicity should not be taken as a defect, but should be viewed as its strength. Some of my favorite movies possess some of the simplest stories I’ve seen such as Vittorio De Sica’s ‘The Bicycle Thief,’ Giuseppe Tornatore’s ‘Cinema Paradiso’ and Michael Radford’s ‘Il Postino.’
You’re going to fall in love with this film – the characters are easy to like and the vibe is cool. This is a movie that comes from the heart and it’s those projects that stay with you long after you left the theater.