- 14 Jun 19
Warm exploration of vulnerability in unlikely friendship.
After 2013’s The Stag and 2016’s Handsome Devil, John Butler rounds out his trio of films about male friendship and vulnerability with Papi Chulo, a huge-hearted and subtlety layered portrayal of the unlikely friendship between a lonely L.A. TV star and a Mexican migrant labourer.
Matt Bomer is hilarious and heartbreaking as Sean, a weather forecaster in ever-sunny Los Angeles (an innately ludicrous job, most of the time), who has an emotional breakdown on air. As his crying fit goes viral and his colleagues are unnerved by this display of vulnerability, he’s put on leave. But his sleek glasshouse is filled with reminders of his ex-boyfriend Carlos, exacerbating his loneliness. On a whim, Sean decides to have his deck repainted and hires Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño), a middle-aged man with very limited English. Encouraged by Ernesto’s kind face and the judgement-free safety net of the language barrier, Sean begins using Ernesto as a surrogate therapist and friend. To Ernesto’s confusion, the deck remains unpainted as Sean instead takes Ernesto hiking, rowing on a lake, and to a party.
Bomer is a comedic revelation, his micro-expressions, nervous energy and mile-a-minute chattering perfectly conveying Sean’s genuine sweetness, desperate loneliness and fear of losing control. Even his overbearing presence during the brief moments when Ernesto is working captures a hilariously specific form of white liberal guilt. Patiño is Bomer’s perfectly understated foil, warmly portraying Ernesto’s initially bemused indulgence of this rich white man, and his growing compassion as he realises he’s witnessing a person’s most vulnerable moments.