Movies, Peru, South America

Get Pulled Into Peru’s Undertow.

August 28, 2011
(Last Updated On: September 11, 2017)

Undertow. A Gay Romance And Love Story.

Miguel(Image Courtesy of The Evening Class)

Peruvian movie Undertow (Contracorriente), explores the country’s traditionally taboo issue of homosexuality in a “unique, gay romance and ghost story“.  Invoking the story telling methods of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the love triangle of Miguel, Santiago and Mariela is told in a similarly fantastical style.

Summary Via Cinema Without Borders

In Undertow, a unique, gay romance and ghost story set on the beautiful Peruvian coastline, a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his world’s rigid traditions. Miguel (Cristian Mercado), a young fisherman, devoted husband, and beloved community member is about to welcome his first child along with his beautiful bride, Mariela (Tatiana Astengo). But Miguel harbors a scandalous secret: He’s in love with Santiago (Manolo Cardona), a handsome painter, ostracized by the town because he’s both agnostic and gay. When Santiago drowns accidentally in the ocean’s strong undertow, he cannot pass peacefully to the other side. His spirit returns after his death to ask Miguel to look for his body and bury it according to the rituals of the town. Miguel must choose between sentencing Santiago to eternal torment, or doing right by him and, in thus, revealing their relationship to Mariela—and the entire village.

There are many things to love about Undertow.

The location perfectly compliments the storyline and greatly influences the overall tone and mood of the film. Watching Miguel sail out to sea to release his cousin’s body (and later Santiago’s) elevates the sadness and responsibility with which the character is burdened. Happiness and joy is captured as you see Miguel and Santiago make love and frolic together in the waves along a secluded beach.

Lovers Santiago and Miguel in Undertow(Image Courtesy of NPR.)

The minutiae of every day life in a rural fishing village along Peru’s northern coastline is brilliantly portrayed. Miguel is seen drinking with his friends, attending church, walking through town and watching TV at home with his sleeping wife and mother-in-law.

The performance of Cristian Mercado. A better actor couldn’t have been chosen for this role. Mercado’s emotionally evocative scenes made you feel the love he had for both his wife and Santiago. The inner turmoil being experienced by his character seems real.

Miguel Adores His Wife Mariela(Image Courtesy of Jesther Entertainment)

The exploration of the issue of homosexuality in a traditionally conservative culture. Director and writer Javier Fuentes-León not only highlights the community’s intolerance of Miguel’s sexual orientation but his own internalized homophobia. His coming out journey is a beautiful one to watch. Asked if the film is auto-biographical, Fuentes-León who is openly gay, asserts that the movie is not about his own life.


News and Reviews

  1. Cinema Without Borders –
  2. IMDB –
  3. Guardian –
  4. Rotten Tomatoes –
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