Projections - Movie Reviews

Before Night Falls

Before Night Falls

The life of gay Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas is chronicled with much feeling by former artist Julian Schnabel.  Anchored by an unexpectedly moving turn from Spanish thespian Javier Bardem, Before Night Falls is quite absorbing in that it advantageously uses sexuality and human rights from a country which has gained much attention of late.

Manifested well by Vito Maria Schnabel, the director's son Arenas develops homosexual feelings, through adolescence and his arrival in Havana.  Schnabel uses the prose of Arenas with his poetry to capture revolutionary ardor and the changing political climate.  Actual color footage make these scenes technically effective as they link the written word to the pursuing of a writer's dream.

In its pliable format, Before Night Falls has the adult Reinaldo played by Bardem ably penning a novel, Singing From the Well, which has sufficient, important backing to get edited and published, the only one by Arenas in his native land.

The happier Havana times glow in a sensual haziness as nostalgia and what the sea means to Arenas.  It all shifts with persecution from the Castro government, as the writer uses his gift and sex decisively, he also learns that homosexuals are considered political heretics and placed in a concentration camp.

Johnny Depp appears briefly as Lt. Victor who, along with the severity of solitary confinement resulting from a publication of the novel in France, has Reinaldo renouncing his work.  And a hot air balloon escape snarled by a duplicitous bisexual buddy Pepe, finally takes Before Night Falls into its painful last act after a 1980 boat lift.

The arc of Reinaldo's character vividly has moments of sexual bravado and wrenching sadness and Before Night Falls elegantly and emotionally recreates an impassioned, yet hellish, existence.

Before Night Falls

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