You’ll Never Be Alone: Society’s dark shadow
Based on a true story from Chile that has echoes around the world, this drama explores a seriously brutal homophobic attack with unusual inventiveness. What starts off as a lighthearted depiction of young gay life shifts into a provocative look at how the system fails the most vulnerable people, forcing them to take desperate measures.
The film opens on the unashamedly gay 18 year old Pablo (Andrew Bargsted), who is training as a dancer and drag queen. He shrugs off insults from neighbours who call him “The Girl” and is quietly supported by his single dad, Juan (Sergio Hernandez). Pablo has a best girlfriend (Astrid Roldan) and is shagging his childhood pal, Felix (Jaime Leiva), who is still deep in the closet. So when Felix’s friends decide to attack Pablo in the street, Felix is forced to make a decision.
While the first half of this story is relaxed and funny, complete with sweaty sex scenes that reveal a lot about Felix’s self-loathing approach to his own sexuality, what follows after Pablo is hospitalised is much bleaker; the film’s focus shifts to Juan, who is knocked badly off balance by Pablo’s serious injuries. Not only doesn’t his insurance cover the enormous medical bills, but the cops are uninterested in pursuing the attackers and his boss is unwilling to help him in his time of need. In other words, Juan discovers that his entire society is letting him down. And this sense of betrayal forces him to take some startling action.
This is the writing-directing debut of musician Alex Anwandter, who also provides the film’s often intense musical score. He gives the story a fiercely authentic kick, with raw camerawork and acting that is staggeringly naturalistic, drawing out the parallels with other high-profile cases like this – Matthew Shepard’s vicious murder in Wyoming comes to mind. He also avoids simplistically blaming this on Chile’s machismo-based culture. All of which makes the movie feel eerily timeless.
Juan is vividly well-played by the excellent actor Hernandez (see Gloria). He doesn’t say much, but his inner thoughts are so clear that Hernandez is able to take the audience on a moving odyssey that refuses to go where we think it will. And there are layers of complexity to all of the characters that continually catch us off guard, including a wonderfully insinuating appearance by Antonia Zegers (The Club) as an impassive doctor.
This certainly isn’t always easy to watch, but it’s powerfully involving. And there’s an urgency in the way it depicts a culture that thinks it’s progressive but still has embers of hatred lurking in the shadows. All over the world, hate crimes are on the rise at the moment from casual prejudice to physical violence and systemic injustice. And it all starts with those tiny insults we have learnt to brush off every day. This is a rare film that challenges us to see these attitudes for what they are.