“Luz” Offers a Queer Romantic Drama Between Two Prison Inmates – Movie Review

Luz 2021 movie review
“Luz” Movie Poster (Image: PR)

From writer/director Jon Garcia, Luz is a queer-centric story about two inmates finding love in prison and figuring out if their connection can last once they’re both released.

I was provided with a free screener of Luz for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.

Promoted as a “Latino Prison film”, one of the things I liked about Luz was Garcia’s focus on addressing the machismo present in the Latino community. Around the world, the term “masculinity” continues to have a very problematic definition that perpetuates homophobia and misogyny. Whether or not viewers enjoy the overall narrative in Luz, I think they will at least appreciate what Garcia’s going for when it comes to showcasing “masculinity” through his two lead characters.

The premise deals with Ruben (Ernesto Reyes) being sent to prison due to a car crash and his dealings with the Mafioso. He had to leave his little daughter behind. While trying to adapt to prison life, Ruben meets his cellmate Carlos (Jesse Tayeh). While their first encounter isn’t the best, the two slowly begin to understand each other and their connection becomes romantic. Their love is cut short when it’s time for Carlos to leave. And once Ruben is released two years later, he has to figure out his feelings for Carlos outside of prison and plan how to get his daughter away from a dangerous situation.

Here’s the trailer!

Having Luz follow Ruben and Carlos away from prison is another aspect I enjoyed. In many similar stories, the narrative ends when characters are offered freedom from behind bars. However, Ruben and Carlos aren’t exactly free while living life in the outside world. They still have a lot to address.

In my opinion, even though I wasn’t a fan of a particular decision Carlos made and how it hurt Ruben, I do think their relationship progressed in a realistic manner. Both men come from different backgrounds and carried a lot of emotional baggage. Of course, they’re going to be a mess before they finally come to realize what they mean to each other.

Garcia’s previous queer-centric fare includes The Falls series. So he knows how to handle human emotion when handling queer characters and their issues with sexuality. There’s nudity involved. So, keep that in mind. The acting is good across the board, with both actors impressively delivering during emotionally vulnerable scenes. The plot of Luz, however, is another matter.

Even though I remained engaged, the critic in me felt that some viewers might experience problems with the pacing and certain narrative decisions. I’m not sure if I was able to follow the timeline or not, but it did look like Ruben wasn’t working quickly enough to get his daughter back. Also, using the death of a transwoman to cause Ruben emotional pain and getting him in trouble with the Mafioso was something I think could have been handled a lot better. The 1 hour 57-minute running time could have been trimmed a bit.

There’s an element of fantasy involved with how things are resolved. But then again, I can’t blame Garcia for wanting to tell a queer story that ends on a happy note.

If you’re looking for a queer film that’s emotionally heavy (in a good way) and stars two PoC leads, you should consider checking out Luz.

Luz was made available on Digital and DVD on April 6, 2021, by Dark Star Pictures.

Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.


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