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Cachorro’ explores love, family

Tae Andrews | Monday, February 13, 2006

When his mother goes on vacation in India, young Bernardo (David Castillo) is left in the care of his uncle Pedro (Jose Luis Garcia-Perez), an openly gay dentist and active urbanite.

But after Bernardo’s mother Violeta (Elvira Lindo) is detained indefinitely for smuggling drugs, Pedro finds himself in a more permanent stewardship of his nephew, creating a “Queer Eye for the Little Guy” living situation.

Despite Pedro’s status as a gay bachelor accustomed to the single life, he is able to make the transition into a responsible guardian for young Bernardo, who, for his part, is mature beyond his years. The two become very close, but their relationship comes into jeopardy when Bernardo’s grandmother, Dona Teresa (Empar Ferrer), tries to intervene and have Bernardo separated from Pedro on grounds that a homosexual is incapable of caring for a child.

Director Miguel Albaladejo makes some very pointed statements about homosexuality in “Cachorro.” The portrayal of Pedro and his gay friends both challenges and redefines conventional notions of what it is to be gay. Pedro and Co. are big, burly men with expansive waistlines and body hair galore. This “Bear Clan,” despite their exterior appearance of “man’s man” masculinity, remains obviously gay.

However, this is exactly what Albaladejo wants – to eschew the stereotypical association of gay men as being thin, overly effeminate drama kings. Cachorro unabashedly shows homosexual men as being both gay and masculine – and dares the viewer to think otherwise.

“Cachorro” also explores the nature versus nurture debate in terms of discovering what exactly determines sexual orientation. At one point in the film, Bernardo asks Pedro when he first realized he was gay, and Pedro responds by saying that, when he was at the beach as a teenager, he imagined men naked instead of women. This clearly lends support to the theory of homosexuality as being the product of genetic heritage, and not of upbringing. Despite Violeta’s wish to have a gay son, Pedro makes it abundantly clear to his gay friends that he does not want Bernardo being influenced into maintaining a homosexual lifestyle.

Interestingly enough, however, at the film’s conclusion there is significant reason to believe that Bernardo is gay, leading the viewer to wonder whether he was truly gay by birth or changed as a result of living with this uncle.

Pedro’s homosexuality is explicitly made clear throughout the film; like the pop duo Right Said Fred, he is definitely too sexy for his shirt, as he finds himself removing it often during his many liaisons with random gay men. The R rating “Cachorro” received is earned during the film’s opening sequence, which is explicit to the point of pornography in chronicling a tryst between two of Pedro’s gay friends.

While director Miguel Albaladejo’s “shock and awe” tactics are clearly aimed at furthering gay visibility in society, his use of exceedingly graphic sex scenes is one of the film’s major flaws – there is entirely too much penis seen in this movie.

In spite of the excessive sex scenes, “Cachorro” is a good tale of the relationship between a man and his nephew. Despite the many issues and complications brought on by Pedro’s homosexuality throughout the film, at the end of the day, he is a good uncle and loving guardian to Bernardo, regardless of his sexuality.

Spoken entirely in Spanish, the movie offers subtitles to those who cannot ‘habla espanol.’ The English translation of ‘Cachorro’ is “Bear Cub.”

A heartwarming tale of family and acceptance, “Cachorro” is definitely worth coming out of the bear cave – or closet – to check out.