‘Strange Way of Life’ Pedro Pascal & Ethan Hawke Sizzle

May 21, 2023

As much as the cowboys of the American West are associated with being masculine men who are the salt of the earth, so too are they associated with homosexuality. This didn’t start with Brokeback Mountain, though I’m sure that will be the main point of comparison for people who watch Pedro Almodóvar’s short film, Strange Way of Life. There’s the song “Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other”, the 1981 country music song by Ned Sublette about gay cowboys that was famously covered by Willie Nelson, or 2021’s The Power of the Dog by Jane Campion that features a closeted gay rancher. The trope is a popular aspect of Westerns. But, Strange Way of Life is not a story of two men who are struggling with their sexuality like some of these other stories. They are cowboys who have reunited after consummating their relationship 25 years ago, who have broken up and tried to move on but can’t seem to let go of the past flame. Strange Way of Life focuses more on the past as its subject — past romance, past promises, past regrets.

RELATED: Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke Lasso a Complex Relationship in First ‘Strange Way of Life’ Trailer

‘Strange Way of Life’ Is About More Than Just Romance

Pedro Pascal plays Silva, a rancher who comes into town and meets his former lover, Jake, played by Ethan Hawke. Their initial meeting is crackling with energy and chemistry, with the two of them developing an instant rapport. But what starts as a rendezvous between lovers is soon revealed to be a visit with a purpose. Jake, the town sheriff, is intent on bringing a killer to justice and that killer is Silva’s son (Manu Rios). Silva is here to plead his son’s case. While the murder is the impetus for the reunion, the short film is focused on the changed relationship between Jake and Silva. Going back 25 years, we see the beginning of their romance, where a young Jake (Jason Fernández) and a young Silva (José Condessa) first fall in love while working as hired guns. The romance has clearly left a strong impact on both men, affecting them two and a half decades later.

The sizzling chemistry between Pascal and Hawke is palpable. Jake doesn’t want to look into the past, bitter that Silva has been away all this time, but he also can’t stay away from the man. Meanwhile, Silva lives with regret for a life the two of them could have had together, jealous at times, but also still infatuated with Jake. It isn’t easy to color within the lines when defining these two characters, both actors add complexity to a script that is somewhat lacking and stilted at times. Almodóvar’s dialogue often feels repetitive, but when paired with his distinct colorful visual style and camera work, it meshes together well.

Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke Have Sizzling Chemistry

The scenes between Pascal and Hawke are erotic and passionate, both in the present timeline and 25 years ago. The 31-minute short utilizes the two actors to their full capacity, offering us a multi-faceted approach to their relationship. The conflict between the two men isn’t necessarily about coming out publicly. Yes, that likely stands as a reason why the two broke up years ago, but what’s keeping them apart now are promises Jake made to his family and Silva’s fatherly obligations to his son. In this way, Strange Way of Life poses the two characters more as enemies, albeit reluctant ones.

Almodóvar’s signature style is all over this short. His colorful visual palette lends a sort of storybook quality to the film. And while it is visually enticing, it also sometimes feels too much like a film production, distracting from the story of two lovers. Silva’s horse and saddle are immaculately clean despite having travelled across a desert. The town jail is bright, airy, and well-organized. It often feels like a modern illustration of the West, losing the authenticity of the genre. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As a short film, this style offers a strong method of delivery for the story. It feels like a full-length feature despite its shortened runtime. While Almodóvar reignites love for the genre, he offers very little that is new to the trope. His focus on his lead actors makes Strange Way of Life an artistic and romantic vignette in the life of two lovers.

Rating: B-

Strange Way of Life had its world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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