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Film Review: Before Night Falls

An emerging Spanish talent plays Reinaldo Arenas, the gay Cuban writer

'Before Night Falls' reputation preceded itself due to the Oscar nomination for Best Actor earlier this year for Javier Bardem (he didn't win). What is really amazing is that it's the Spanish actor's first English language role. Bardem plays the role of Reinaldo Arenas, a gay Cuban writer who developed from peasant beginnings into one of country's most celebrated authors.

Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas in 'Before Night Falls'Initially castigated by his overly-strict Grandfather, the young Arenas finds a happy existence later as a student in Havana. But this idyll is short lived. Counter-revolutionaries (in this case writers, slackers and gays) suffer enormously at the hands of the government. Put in prison, Arenas is so desperate to have his writings published he resorts to any means necessary (in one case, asking transvestite inmate Bon Bon (Johnny Depp) to smuggle his finished work out concealed 'where the sun don't shine').

The success of 'Before Night Falls', and the reason why it works (apart from the excellent acting) is that it never follows a pretentious path. The story is told in a very no-nonsense way, so that the finished product comes across as genuine and sincere. Javier Bardem is obviously excellent, while Johnny Depp proves yet again that he is one of modern cinema's best talents (he plays a prison guard as well as the aforementioned transvestite inmate).

Never exciting, it's nonetheless a moving, original film that's worth seeing. Watch out also for a cameo role from Sean Penn as a Cuban peasant.

Derek Nagle

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