Film Review: “Viva” (2016) ★★★★★


When Eddie Redmayne completely transformed himself into Lili Elbe in “The Danish Girl”, everybody expected him to get an Oscar except me. It’s not like I did not find him convincing. Not at all. But as a person who watches international films constantly, I was not surprised seeing such significant transformation. After all, physical transformation is not the only thing required for recognition, but the film itself that should have a bit more than just a talented cast. Paddy Breathnack’s “VIVA” is absolute opposite of it. It has soul, infectious energy, and a heartbeat that you will be hearing throughout the film.

“VIVA” follows Jesus (Hector Medina), a young hairdresser at a Havana nightclub that showcases drag performers. Jesus, inspired by his mentor, Mama (Luis Alberto Garcia) wishes to become one of the performers. But the day when he finally gets the chance to hit the stage, an unknown man comes towards him and punches his face. At first, Jesus did not know who that man was, but later on recognizes in him his estranged father, Angel (Jorge Perugorria).

Angel is recently released from prison, and does not welcome his son’s new profession. Felt disgusted and ashamed of Jesus, the father tries to change him. However, soon he realizes that it is him who should change. Jesus is a very kind and warm-hearted man whose good nature strikes everyone around him. Angel certainly notices that, and agrees that instead of fighting, the two men should find a way to live in the same house in peace.

It’s quite touching to see how Jesus, in spite of everything, looks after a man who he never met before. As the story unfolds, their feelings deepen towards each other, while Angel’s personality starts changing, allowing him to become more tolerant. Mama also looks after Jesus, however, finds it difficult to allow Jesus to return back to stage until he leaves his father alone. This is when you, as a viewer will fall in love with Jesus, when instead of the job and money, he chooses his penniless and alcoholic father, who has a secret he soon decides to share with him…

“VIVA” is completely beautiful, soulful and feel-good film from the beginning till the end. The performance each actor delivers is an absolutely different story that won’t fit into one review. Hector Medina, Luis Alberto Garcia and Jorge Perugorria showcase their talents here, while the transformation of Medina and Garcia is what will astonish you most. The first time when Medina appears in a drag show will make you to watch the scene standing, while the end of it will leave you speechless and in tears. It’s all because of great synchronization of music, performance and the feeling the actor allowed himself to go through in order to deliver the best performance possible.

In conclusion, “VIVA” is a film about love between a father and his son. It’s a story of a young man who knows the value of life and relationship. It’s about forgiveness and how to learn to love. It’s about the importance of changing the mindset in order to accept the world the way it is. It’s about Jesus, who with the help of Viva finds his true self. It’s about art, stage and music that can give strength to anyone who believes in its power. And yes, the power is one of the many positive things this film has.

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