Papi Chulo
dir-scr John Butler
prd Rebecca O'Flanagan, Robert Walpole
with Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patino, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ryan Guzman, Brandon Kyle Goodman, Elena Campbell-Martinez, Michael Shepperd, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Shaughn Buchholz, Daniel Edward Mora, Thom Rivera, Kevin Sifuentes
release UK Oct.18 lff
18/Ireland 1h39
Papi Chulo
The odd couple: Bomer and Patino

bomer mclendon-covey guzman
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Papi Chulo Irish filmmaker John Butler traces an offbeat friendship in this engaging comedy-drama, which takes a turn that adds a complex exploration of a deep theme. It's a charming story with intriguing characters who interact in honest, messy ways. So while the events in the movie sometimes tip over the top, the story and characters remain easy to identify with.

Still reeling after a breakup, Los Angeles weatherman Sean (Bomer) has an on-air breakdown, after which his boss (McLendon-Covey) tells him to take some personal time and talk to someone. So he hires day worker Ernesto (Patino) outside the local hardware shop to help repaint his deck. Despite the fact that Ernesto speaks very little English, Sean chats incessantly, feeling like Ernesto is helping him deal with his loneliness. He also introduces Ernesto to his friends without clarification, as if he's a new boyfriend. Which is something Ernesto's snappy wife (Campbell-Martinez) thinks is hilarious.

All of this plays out with a smile, although there's a growing shadow in the fact that Sean still isn't dealing with his issues. And as things progress, we discover that he really needs to. Even though the topic is very serious, raising some powerful emotions along the way, Butler skilfully avoids letting the film become mawkish. Gentle comical touches abound, as well as an overriding sense of hopefulness: there are people around Sean who are concerned enough to make sure he's OK.

Bomer plays Sean fearlessly as a bright young man who has pushed his feelings deep inside, perhaps thinking that this means he'll never need to confront them. So he goes through life with a smile, making awkward chatter to everyone he meets, while connecting on an unexpected level with Ernesto, played by Patino with a wry twinkle that's often very funny. These two are a very odd couple indeed, but there's more to their clumsy friendship than either expects as Sean pays Ernesto to row on Silverlake, hike in Runyon Canyon or attend a gay party.

Along the way, Butler captures a nice sense of the relaxed Los Angeles culture outside that strange Westside bubble. Sean lives in a modest Eagle Rock home with a remarkable view and feels isolated by the city and its howling coyotes. Dating apps only make him feel worse about himself, but he does try. And while Butler sometimes forces the plot (mainly through excessive physicality), he lets the themes develop under the surface. Which makes the film both entertaining and thought provoking.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Oct.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall