'Bad Hair' follows a frustrated boy, resentful mom

Tom Long
The Detroit News

There's a sense of being trapped that permeates "Bad Hair" — trapped in your own flesh, trapped in circumstances, trapped in the family you're born into.

Junior (Samuel Lange Zambrano), a 9-year-old Venezuelan boy, certainly knows the feeling. He's got a big head of kinky hair that won't be tamed, a widowed, unemployed mother, Marta (Samantha Castillo), who resents him, and he lives in a slum of an apartment building surrounded by other slum apartment buildings.

Still, the kid dreams. He wants to get his picture taken in a flashy suit, with his hair miraculously slicked straight. He fancies himself an entertainer and sings aloud on the bus, to his mother's constant embarrassment. Her worry? That he's gay. Why else would a boy sing and want to dress up?

Marta's fears are egged on by Junior's grandmother (Nelly Ramos), who literally wants to buy Junior from Marta so she can have some companionship in old age. Junior's relationship with his mother is shaky, to say the least, but he doesn't want to leave her.

Meanwhile, Marta's employment situation is dire. She's trying to get back her former job as a security guard, but her old boss will likely take some special convincing. She is just as trapped as Junior and doesn't have his daydreams to fall back on.

Writer-director Mariana Rondon isn't offering some inspiring fairy tale where everyone's wishes come true. As chirpy as Junior can be, and the kid is fairly indefatigable, an air of weary despair hangs over "Bad Hair" as Marta walks crowded streets hoping for work and Junior tries everything from mayonnaise to cooking oil to straighten his hair and, by connection, his life. But some things just can't be straightened.



'Bad Hair'


Not rated

Running time: 93 minutes

At the Detroit Film Theatre

"Bad Hair" (Not rated) A young Venezuelan boy wishes for straight hair while his resentful, impoverished single mother worries that he's gay in this rich but despairing film. (93 minutes) GRADE: B+