Miguel (Mercado) is a God-fearing Peruvian fisherman with a beautiful wife, Mariela (Astengo), and first child on the way. Yet he's also secretly in love with Santiago (Cardona), the handsome male artist who's seen as an interloping pariah in their tiny seaside town. Our well-respected hero maintains this double life until Santiago vanishes into the surf, returning as a ghost that only his lover can see. It's a perversely ideal arrangement---the married man openly consorting with his late boyfriend sans anyone being the wiser. But Santiago can never rest in peace until his body is found and consecrated, which only Miguel, risking ridicule and exposure, has the power to do.
Peru's submission for the Foreign Language Oscar, Javier Fuentes-Len's feature debut is a refreshingly novel take on the coming-out narrative. The film never resorts to villainous caricatures or moral simplicity; instead, it presents three compelling (and ultimately irresolvable) sides to a love triangle. While the shift from erotica to supernaturalism is a bit jarring---the ghostly high jinks nearly register as broad comedy---Undertow's three impassioned lead performances and Fuentes-Len's honest engagement with thorny matters of identity, sexuality and community still make it an easy movie to get swept up by.
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