You had us at Willem Dafoe. You know the roles: Raven Shaddock in the rock ‘ n’ roll noir Streets of Fire and lost rocker Johnny Harte in one of my personal favorites, Roadhouse 66. Then there’s the diabolical forger Eric “Rick” Masters in To Live and Die in L.A. and Sergeant Elias Gordon in Platoon. We can go on and on . . . yes, ye film youngins, you know him as The Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise.
The always amazing and never disappointing Argentinian director Hector Babenco — who you know through his multiple award-winning works with Tom Berenger and John Lithgow in At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991), Kiss of the Spiderwoman (1985) with William Hurt, and Ironweed (1987) with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep — returns, sadly, with his final film: an autobiographical examination about life and death through a film director’s bout with cancer.
Willem Dafoe is Diego Fairman, a talented, but acidic, filmmaker who is as adept at social alienation as he is with film — and his decade-long bout with cancer only amplifies his curmudgeonly outlook on life. With his new wife, Livia (award-winning Brazilian actress Maria Fernada Candido), he leaves Brazil for a new round of treatments in Seattle. And the only man who can save him, via a bone marrow transplant, is his brother, Antonio, who haven’t spoken to each other in ten years. While in treatment, Diego comes to find solace in the friendship of a young Hindu boy also dealing with cancer.
The philosophical question asked in this, the final masterpiece of the then dying Babenco (he passed in July 2016), asks: Does someone, who went out of their way to make the lives of others miserable and never took responsibility for said actions, deserve a free pass because they’re dying? Or do they deserve to die alone — with their soul in agony as much as their body? Will others forgive . . . to release the sinner from their guilt?
And when Death arrives to take him, Diego asks from his death bed, for one more chance to make one more film. And he makes that film within his soul — with the help of his Hindu friend. And the fact that My Hindu Friend is the film that Death granted Hector Babenco to make — makes this film all the more powerful.
Yeah, I cried. I’m man enough to admit that.
In an overseas rollout since 2015, My Hindu Friend is finally available in the U.S on May 1 through Rock Salt Releasing on DVD, Blu-Ray and all digital streaming platforms (Amazon, AT&T, DirectTV, FANDANGO, FlixFling, Google Play, Hoopla, inDemand, iTunes, inDemand, DirecTV, Vudu, Google Play, FANDANGO, Sling/Dish, Sony, Vimeo on Demand, You Tube Movies, and Xbox).
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review. Besides, with Dafoe, and the fact that it’s Babenco’s final film, we would have bought our own copy.