A tale of three loves: Contracorriente (Undertow)

In a small Peruvian fishing village, Miguel, a fisherman and his wife Mariela await the birth of their first child whom the father insists will be a boy named Miguelito. The wife protests: “Don’t call it that. What if it is a girl? She could be traumatized by that.” He replies: “Then we’ll call her Miguelita.”

This easy going between husband and wife is interrupted by the news of a young villager's death. Miguel is called to help prepare the body and later bury it at sea since the closed-knit community respect his honesty and leadership.

But all is not what it seems to be – less than 10 minutes into the film we learn that Miguel is having a homosexual relationship with an artist-photographer (an outsider) in the village. The community acts as chorus in this intriguing, sometimes light-hearted, at other times dramatic first film by Fuentes-León, who wrote and directed. And a stunning and strong debut it is.

At times, the ménage a trois and the magic realism of Dona Flor and her Two Husbands come to mind - at others, Visconti’s poetic portrait of a Sicilian fishing village La Terra Trema.

Yet Contracorriente has bigger fish to fry. It is the education of Miguel as a husband, lover, and father that gives the film its best moments and focus.  It is that hard-earned lesson that audiences will take away from this magnificent film.

Friday, Feb. 4 at 9:30 pm., CineFestival, Guadalupe Theater, 1300 Guadalupe

Undertow (Contracorriente; Peru/Colombia/France/Germany, 2009)
100 min.
Dir. Javier Fuentes-León