TIFF13 Review: Bad Hair (2013)
Spoiler: Mariana Rondon’s gripping film Bad Hair isn’t actually about hair. Rather it’s about Junior (Samuel Lange), a young boy who doesn’t quite fit. Junior doesn’t fit into society’s conventional definition of a boy and, most importantly, he doesn’t fit in the world of his weary mother Marta who is growing suspicious that he might be a homosexual. Junior doesn’t even fit with his more accepting but still demanding grandmother, who’s willing to go along with his dream of being a straight haired singer as long as she likes the song.
Bad Hair is a riveting and gripping domestic drama that simmers to a boil and it is heartbreaking in many ways. Rondon manages to capture both the wide-eyed innocence of childhood and the grating sound of that innocence scraping against the harsh realities of economically oppressive urban life. The filmmaker manages, remarkably, to generate empathy for each character in turn. As much as you want to hate Marta for grinding her child’s spirit, her concerns are real and practical.
However, as much as I enjoyed Bad Hair it felt incomplete in the end. Both Marta and grandma conclude that Junior is probably gay, which feels like an easy solution for the characters and filmmakers alike. Too many stones are left unturned here. Junior’s father, a black man and presumably the source of his curly “bad” hair, seemed like a potential well of meaning that no bothers to explore. I found myself reading Junior’s obsession with straightening his hair more as a desire to look more like his mother and less like his father; more a bid to win his mom’s withheld affection than an indicator of his sexuality. While the film makes feints in this direction early on, it abandons that train of thought by the end.
Still, Bad Hair is moving and affecting and you’ll feel the sharp sting of tears at the final, heartbreaking shot. This is definitely worth a festival pass.
Screening Times for Bad Hair
Saturday September 7 Isabel Bader Theatre 6:30 PM
Monday September 9 Scotiabank 13 11:00 AM
Friday September 13 Scotiabank 10 12:45 PM
A Gallery of Images from Bad Hair
Watch the Bad Hair Trailer
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