‘Isaac’ Shows the Importance of Being True to Yourself – Film Review
The directorial debut of Angeles Hernandez and David Matamoros, isaac is based on the Spanish play The day that Isaac was born by Antonio Hernandez Centeno. This queer-centric film tackles a number of societal issues and themes through flawed characters.
I was provided with a free digital filter of isaac for evaluation. The opinions I have shared are my own.
Warning! This review of isaac contains some spoilers.
The premise of this film involved two childhood friends meeting years after leaving high school. Nacho (Pepe Ocio) has become a successful lawyer. However, he and his wife are struggling to get pregnant. Denis (Ivan Sanchez), who works in a bar, struggles to find funds to realize his dream of opening a restaurant in the United States. Denis does not hesitate to ask Nacho for a loan. It turns out that Nacho is ready to give Denis a loan, but there’s a catch. The two men have decided to ask Denis’ wife, Carmen (Erika Bleda), to replace Nacho and his wife Marta (Maria Ribera).
Such a complicated and messy arrangement is not helped by the fact that Denis and Nacho had sex with each other in high school and unresolved feelings still exist between them.
Here is the trailer!
The title isaac actually refers to Denis and Nacho’s mutual high school friend of the same name. The narrative takes us through two timelines as the story unfolds, with the past adding more context to the decisions made by the two male leads, particularly Nacho, in the present. Things came together for the three young friends when Denis, the group’s protector, left without saying goodbye. Isaac’s bullying escalated and Nacho couldn’t help him. Nacho grew up with a lot of guilt because of what happened to Isaac. He also had a ton of questions about Denis leaving.
With adult Nacho and Denis spending more time together due to the surrogacy arrangement, a lot of emotions have surfaced. I liked how the story answered my questions about Denis and Nacho’s past. Nacho comes into his own and sees Denis for who he really was as a person was handled well, in my opinion.
A major theme in isaac is to be true to yourself and not let others dictate your life. Many of the problems the characters faced could have been solved by accepting what they really wanted in life. Marta is continually pressured to give birth to an heir to the family. And adoption not being an option, she accepts Nacho’s plan to make Carmen the surrogate mother. Nacho faces his share of family pressure to become a father. Professionally successful married couples were constantly reminded that having children is what helps them to be respected by society.
Denis just wants the money for his dream restaurant and he doesn’t hesitate to pressure Carmen into agreeing to the plan. I didn’t like the scene where he tried to convince Carmen to say yes. You could tell her heart wasn’t in it, but she couldn’t say no because she’s in love with Denis. Marta going to meet Carmen alone to convince her further was another well-written scene. Carmen could have said no to everyone. But we all know that saying no is harder than it looks depending on the situation you find yourself in.
Even though Denis and Nacho came up with the deal, I liked how the narrative didn’t forget about their wives and took time to focus on their emotions regarding the whole situation. Marta giving Carmen a sweet little getaway was a welcome addition and helped flesh them out as characters.
In addition to dealing with the drama caused by Carmen’s pregnancy, we also learn about the problems already present in Marta and Nacho’s marriage. They are not happy to stay married and having a baby was not going to change that.
There’s a feeling of melancholy everywhere isaac. And I think that’s to be expected because of the narrative of how denying what you want leads to an unfulfilling life. Towards the end of the film, each character must make a choice that will impact their future. While I think some viewers might find the conclusion to Nacho and Carmen’s journey a little too unrealistic, I enjoyed seeing both characters get their happy endings. I needed some positivity to add to the story after what some characters went through. I was also happy to see Marta defend herself.
I’ve found isaac to be an enjoyable queer-centric film showing the importance of prioritizing your well-being and letting go of the past. However, if I had to level some criticism, I think Nacho’s final interaction with Denis could have been handled better. There was just a lot of information shared during a single scene with a lot of storytelling and not enough spectacle. Since the film also has scenes from the past, I wouldn’t mind seeing a young Denis living out what an adult Denis was saying to Nacho in the present.
Also, I’m a bit unsure what the writers wanted to convey through Denis as a character. His parents’ toxic relationship hurt him. But, as far as I can tell, he’s okay with the kind of man he grew up to be? Is he okay with manipulating others to get what he wants? The way he treated a pregnant Carmen because he was able to get the money he needed sooner than expected was simply breathtaking!
I just couldn’t feel sorry for him. But then again, maybe that’s exactly what the writers wanted? It could be that Denis, as a character, is meant to be an example of how going too far in prioritizing your needs can lead to harming the lives of others. Hmmm.
isaac won numerous awards, including Best Actor and Best Director at the Puerto Vallarta Film Festival, Special Jury Mention for Narrative Feature at the OUTshine Film Festival, and was nominated for Best Feature at the International Film Festival from Guadalajara.
Released November 16, 2021, isaac is currently available to you on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Vimeo, and through local cable and satellite providers, and on DVD.
I recommend watching it if you’re in the mood for some emotionally heavy stuff.
Farid holds a double master’s degree 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. It gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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