LUZ is a powerful journey to the dawn
Gay men in prison have been a staple in films, from Hollywood-sized musicals like KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN (1985) to small gems like THE PRINCE.(2019). And Luz begins with a young man stripped searched, and admitted to jail; you might expect you know which path the film will take. As a result, this is one of my favorite films of 2022.
However, writer/director Jon Garzia has a few tricks up his sleeve, aided tremendously by two men who befriend each other and bend their own lives. Ruben (Ernesto Ruiz) holds the center of the film, as he enters a jail after the accidental death of his trans lover and his punishment by his mafioso cousin for whom he worked. He is desperate to stay in touch with his deaf daughter, who is being cared for by his mother.
His cellmate Carlos (Jesse Tayeh) is older and has been hardened. He tells Ruben never to trust, never to hope, and never to have any dealings with the gay inmates. And when Ruben fails to heed those rules, the fate of the two men is healed as the men brawl into a beautiful romance.
But Luz is a story of survival, and the second half of the film has much to say about family and the bond between men. The sexuality is frank and robust. The performances of the large ensemble cast delve deeper than those generally seen in a prison film.
A remarkable feature of the film is the haunting score by Jim Brunberg and Benjamin Landsverk, which is simple, and deeply felt. There is a lovely sample of the score in the trailer below, along with several spoilers.