One of the films featured at Philly QFest (when I went) was called Limbo. The tale of a 5th Grade homosexual boy who falls into a delusional world after suffering an accident. Having missed this film upon its initial screening it became a DVD must. However, this film in the end suffers from more than just aesthetic/technical issues.
Those issues are rather abundant: The dialogue is rather repetitive – repeating that “it is limbo” and “everyone has their own” several times seeming to want to make up running time because they didn’t have enough, the video cinematography is uninspired to say the least, the sound is not good – in fact it’s quite bad, the revelation of the significance of the blind man is no surprise. In the end a bulk of the movie is (to not give it away too greatly) like an entire season of Dallas, at some point the lawyer, who is in Limbo with him, takes over and becomes the center of the film and the development of Isao and his driving the story stops completely, the cuts out of the limbo state to his friend’s reaction and the “real world” is jarring more than anything else and only seems to interrupt things.
As if those things weren’t bad enough it is also becomes confusing as a selection for a gay film festival in a couple of ways. The first way in which it manages this is through an exchange between Isao and the nurse towards the end, made even more awkward because she is a Virgin Mother figure, in which she says vaguely “You should give girls a chance.” The film’s message in the end is not one of conversion but at this moment that is dubious and the fact that this film depicts a Mary figure seemingly encouraging a gay boy to be straight is actually the most disturbing rendition onscreen, and that includes Sinead O’Connor’s turn in The Butcher Boy because that was Francie Brady’s vision and he was off-kilter to say the least.
The intent of this line is softened, but only slightly, a few minutes later. Isao is alive and well with his friend, who tried to kiss him earlier, and tells her “I don’t want to be your boyfriend, but I like you,” and then they kiss. This would be fine if it hadn’t gotten into slow motion, and gone on for so long. There’s no reason for it and it becomes disturbing after a while.
The gaffes committed by the film don’t end there. In the end credits you’ll notice that Isao was played by Fatima Diaz. This fact is not cited on the festival page or on the Amazon listing and not even on the DVD blurb. This is a casting ruse that is completely and utterly unnecessary. The character was not written or played such that a young male actor could not have pulled it off, this is not like Felicity Huffman in Transamerica where the unconventional casting choice worked to a great advantage of the film. It wasn’t made a necessity or even preferable. In the end this little bit of simulacrum not only creates a lesbian kiss where there was supposed to be a friendly one but also makes the homophobia that Isao faced seem almost justified because there isn’t even a boy playing this role. Making it seem like it’s unacceptable for a male actor to play this part. Mind you I don’t blame Diaz in any way, though not spectacular she was only noticeably a girl when she screamed, which at time I thought was an odd ADR choice not a casting one; a casting choice more appropriate for The Crying Game than this story.
Now perhaps director Horacio Rivera was trying to make a statement both in casting and in the lesbian kiss, but what he failed to take into consideration was that that message needs to be trumpeted and said message, if intended, is more likely to backfire when the whole film just fails to work. The bottom line is that it’s a choice too open to the audience’s interpretation and undercuts the message of the film entirely.