Monday, 2 February 2015

REVIEW - BAD HAIR (MARIANA RONDON)


An intelligent case of engaging an unwitting audience in a story of broad societal depth and distress by investing their interests in a very narrow, specific story of one small family. It's remarkable how compelling that central story is, mainly because it is so fraught and so plain to us whose side we ought to be on in this familial dispute. Where Mariana Rondon eventually situates this is rattling, since it implies an element of futility in the struggle for freedom and self-expression at Bad Hair's heart. With its sympathetic depiction of childhood in a dilapidated working-class district in an unnamed Venezuelan city, one expects so seemingly frivolous a matter as the effeminate tendencies of a single mother's pre-teen son to be resolved with some pat, cheerful acknowledgement of mutual understanding between the two - such an acknowledgement does indeed occur, but it's certainly not anyone's definition of 'cheerful'. Rondon has her thematic reasons to maintain the tension, in fact to intensify it, as the film progresses, but it serves Bad Hair's realistic atmosphere also, allowing the scenario to burgeon with emotional complexity once it reaches its final scenes. Arguably, Rondon could have toned down the foreshadowing - it's undeniably fitting, but a few shades too obvious, while her handling of domestic drama and her sense of place demonstrate her sensitivity as a filmmaker much better. Throughout, Bad Hair is never less than involving; retrospectively, it's equally provocative, as one's thoughts are awoken to the underlying intelligence with which Rondon has crafted this deceptively straightforward drama.