Written and directed by John Butler, Papi Chulo follows Matt Bomer’s Sean, a local weatherman, as he’s forced to take time off work after an on-air meltdown – with the narrative detailing Sean’s subsequent (and ongoing) efforts at befriending a day laborer (Alejandro Patiño’s Ernesto) hired to paint his deck. Filmmaker Butler delivers a deliberately-paced yet consistently engrossing story that’s never quite as predictable and routine as the premise might’ve indicated, with the movie benefiting substantially from Bomer’s thoroughly impressive (and often heartbreaking) turn as the lonely protagonist (and it’s clear, too, that the palpable chemistry between Bomer and Patiño’s respective characters goes a long way towards perpetuating the compelling vibe). There’s little doubt, as well, that Butler does a superb job of handling the picture’s various shifts in tone, as Papi Chulo‘s lighthearted, genuinely funny first half eventually gives way to something far more affecting and emotional – with the impact of the movie’s third act heightened by a few unexpected revelations (including one that forces the viewer to reframe most of what they’ve just seen). The end result is a better-than-expected dramedy that boasts a seriously striking lead performance, and it’s certainly difficult to easily recall a more earnestly engaging portrait of a man in deep psychological distress.
***1/2 out of ****