‘Luz’ Review: Love In and Out of Lockup

The lovers in the romantic drama “Luz” don’t meet under ideal circumstances. Ruben (Ernesto Reyes) is a new inmate at a minimum-security prison, and he is assigned to bunk with Carlos (Jesse Tayeh), who promptly threatens him over the use of their shared sink. When Ruben fights back, it’s the first sign that the duo might be evenly matched.

Carlos begins to warm to Ruben, and he becomes a mentor as Ruben adjusts to prison life. As roommates, they eat together, and they spar together. They share stories from their pasts and dreams for their futures. They are intimate before they ever have sex.

The film follows their relationship from its humble beginnings to their lives outside of prison, after the couple weathers a separation caused by differing sentence lengths. When Ruben finds Carlos after his release, Carlos invites his former lover back into his life.

Together, the pair has to decide if the connection they made in confinement is worth carrying into their free lives — if each wants the other to meet and merge with family. The affair between Ruben and Carlos alternates between passionate sex and whispered intimacies.

The film’s writer and director, Jon Garcia, treats the physicality of their romance in a frank way, staging realistic love scenes that show the attraction between the characters. But Garcia is less adept at finding passion in between scenes of sex. There is a seriousness to Ruben and Carlos’s relationship that becomes enervating. The first time strings resound in the film’s score, they produce is a plaintive, engrossing feeling. When the same theme plays for the 15th time, the romance feels monotonous.

LUZ
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes. In theaters and on Laemmle’s Virtual Cinema. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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