Pelo Malo/Bad Hair ***Dir: Mariana Rondón. With: Samuel Lange Zambrano, Samantha Castillo, Beto Benites. 93 mins. Cert: 15
This breakthrough drama from Venezuelan writer-director Mariana Rondón starts small – sketching a somewhat tetchy, resentful relationship between a single mother and her nine-year-old son in latter-day Caracas – and gradually builds an idea of a society constructed along restrictively gendered lines. Both main characters are brushing against the grain: mama Marta (the excellent Samantha Castillo) quitting menial cleaning work to try out as a security guard, Junior (Samuel Lange Zambrano) struggling to straighten the unruly moptop he inherited from his macho deceased dad and become a singer. (He’s a little like the crossdressing hero of 1997’s French crowdpleaser Ma Vie en Rose.) Rondón charts their progress in unemphatic slices of life, just playful enough for the whole not to feel like a tract: a pre-teen female neighbour’s gabby obsession with rape – funny, but with a chilly undertone – is typical of a quietly perceptive work that teases out insights without undue strain.
Pelo Malo/Bad Hair opens in selected cinemas from today.