Claudio Marcone’s sensitive coming out film, “In the
Grayscale” just won the juried prize for Best First Feature at Frameline, the largest and oldest LGBTQ film festival in the world. This romantic drama from Chile opens with Bruno (Francisco Celhay) separated
from his wife, Soledad (Daniela Ramírez) and their young son, Daniel (Matías
Torres). He has decided to “find himself.” When he receives an architectural
job, Bruno is encouraged to meet Fer (Emilio Edwards), a tour guide who knows
Santiago well. Fer is gay, and while there is some initial sexual tension
between the two men, Fer insists that being gay is black or white: one is or
one isn’t. Bruno of course, is struggling with the same-sex desires he has been
repressing. He is in the grayscale.
“In the Grayscale” somberly
chronicles Bruno’s mid-life coming of age by having him slowly couple up with
Fer, only to have their relationship discovered. When Bruno’s son asks him if
it true he has been kissing another man, it prompts him to have a discussion
about his sexual identity with his family members. In one of the film’s most
beautiful scenes, Bruno’s grandfather (Sergío Hernandez), reassures him that he
loves Bruno no matter whom he loves.
In this moment, along with a few others, Bruno tears up, releasing
the pent-up anxiety and emotions he feels, and has carried with him, for so
long. Celhay gives a beautifully modulated performance here, as a man who is
finally finding his self-worth. Even if the journey is at times painful for
Bruno, Celhay makes his despair palpable.
While “In the Grayscale” does not
traverse any unfamiliar territory in the coming-out film cannon, it subtly
shows how attitudes in Latin America are changing regarding homosexuality. The
film resists condemning Bruno for being gay; instead, one character finds it to
be a relief that this “perfect husband and father” has a flaw.
While the character of Fer is perhaps
a bit underdeveloped, he is, thankfully, not a queer stereotype. Moreover,
Edwards and Celhay generate some real heat in their erotic scenes together. The
film’s sexual candor may stem from Marcone’s apparent fixation on the beefy
Celhay’s hot body. The director films the actor almost gratuitously in various
stages of undress. Bruno’s rampant nudity may be symbolic of rebirth or purification/cleansing,
but the film’s other visual signposts—a bridge, or water imagery—are far more
effective, and affecting.