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Guatemala, United States · 2020
1h 25m
Director Li Cheng
Starring Enrique Salanic, Manolo Herrera, Ana Cecilia Mota, Jhakelyn Waleska Gonzalez Gonzalez
Genre Drama

19-year-old José lives with his mother in Guatemala, where they struggle to make ends meet. Then comes Luis, a migrant worker with whom José begins a passionate romance. But when their relationship clashes with the conservative expectations of José’s community, José must choose between the two sides of his soul: his home and his heart.

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Variety by

Cheng delivers a mood that is unquestionably human and, at times, unexpectedly hallowed (as when Jose stares down the worn face in a Mayan ruin). José brings to light the promise of a director as compassionate as he is observant.


TheWrap by Carlos Aguilar

Precisely written and deliberately shot, José, a Guatemala-set LGBTQ character examination from Chinese-born director Li Cheng, is a movie preoccupied with the private tragedy of unfulfilled impulses and aspirations as a result of widespread homophobia and emotional blackmail.


The Hollywood Reporter by David Rooney

This is a wisp of a film that for many will lack payoff, but it has a depth of feeling, strong sense of frustration, and hunger for growth and change that heighten involvement. Its sensitive portrait of being young and gay in an unaccommodating culture also makes it deserving of attention.


Los Angeles Times by Gary Goldstein

José is hardly the first movie to spotlight a young person navigating their homosexuality in a repressive and perilous environment. Nonetheless, this sophomore feature from Chinese-born director Li Cheng, who co-wrote with George F. Roberson, feels like a singular and essential entry in that subset of LGBTQ coming-of-age films with an international beat.

88 by Godfrey Cheshire

The satisfactions of José as a whole offers are considerable, and they begin with the human element. Like the Italian neorealist classics from which it descends, the film has a keen appreciation for the lives of people who maintain a stubborn dignity and resolve under the challenges of poverty and other hardships.


Movie Nation by Roger Moore

The scenario here is soapy and a tad familiar. But Cheng’s vivid depiction of the life going on all around his characters . . . enriches the story and makes José, his life, his world and his predicament something anyone can relate to.

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