Cry Macho, Clint Eastwood’s latest film, is an exercise in patience. And it is not that its pace is slow or loses the plot quality for the benefit of the analysis of the behavior of its characters. At 91, the director seems to have learned a few things about the intimacy of cinema. And he demonstrates it through the perception of good and evil as something related to the nature of apparently insignificant things.
Also with the ability of history to unfold at a slow and delicate pace, which surprises with its elegance. Eastwood, who with Richard Jewell (2019) confronted the American conscience and failed in the attempt to capture it, finds the claim in Cry Macho. A way of narrating that surprises with its intelligence and precision. With the same rhetorical sensitivity of El Gran Torino (2008) and the sensitivity of Golpes del Destino (2005), Cry Macho returns to Eastwood’s obsessions.
Cry Macho is actually a curious look at the cinema that Eastwood admires and wishes to capture. To long silences, to redemption through spiritual effort framed in the physical. To the idea of a certain existential fatigue that can be guessed in the director’s predilection for long, sophisticated and neat shots.
The film is a careful structure that seeks to relate the old sensibility of a masculinity type that is now retrograde. But thanks to Eastwood, and his knack for visual storytelling, Cry Macho is beyond mere discussions of right or acceptable.
The director pays tribute to the cinema, which he knows, with which he became an adult and which he delves into with exemplary precision. Medium shots that are obsessed with the faces of the characters. Endless landscapes bathed in light. Low-voiced conversations in half-light. Cry Macho is much more melancholic than emotional. Also less eloquent than it could be. But still it is a small, well-constructed conversation with a deep respect for the cinematic.
It is not the best Eastwood film (it is far from the virtuosity of Unforgiven), but perhaps, a well thought out farewell to a long career. With his version about solidarity and sensitivity that currently has an archaic, Cry Macho is perhaps an unexpected relic. A gift from Eastwood for lovers of intimate and intuitive cinema that is rarely seen today.
‘Cry Macho’, the pure essence of Clint Eastwood
Before being an established director, Eastwood was an actor with tense and violent plots. And before that, the neat stereotype of the silent stranger from Sergio Leone’s Westerns. The experience left him with extensive knowledge of how to tell a story from the periphery.
Cry Macho places considerable emphasis on that unsettling sense of the fringe. He does this through an emotional debate that is not quite on display, but that allows Eastwood to do what he does best. To move with few tools and with the awareness that the film he directs is a restless look at the identity of its characters.
The story about the ill-faced man who must face an unusual situation is now part of Eastwood’s repertoire. But this time, the plot knot moves to places other than the usual ones. If in almost all his filmography ends in violence, on this occasion the director is more occupied in the tension that underlies the story.
When Mike Milko (Eastwood) agrees to search for Howard Polk’s (Dwight Yoakam) 13-year-old son, he tries to keep his emotional distance. And he does so in the manner of the usual reluctant mentor who must mend the way of a wayward disciple. But Eastwood takes up the fundamental line of the premise and configures it towards a story of transit between two points of life.
Eastwood, who does not hide his advanced age and who looks tired and impatient for most of the film, create a character without too many nuances. But still it is endearing in its secret tenderness. Especially in the way he decides that Rafa (Eduardo Minett) deserves the opportunity to understand life on the fringes of violence.
The director returns to the formula he used with relative success in A Perfect World (1993) and does so through the gaze from the extremes of life. The unlikely friendship between a child and an adult is reflected on this occasion as a reflection between mirrors. The look between two spaces of a discreet journey through learning and an unknown depth about identity and time.
In the end, a journey towards a silent horizon
Eastwood, who for more than twenty years has impregnated his work with a silent and frugal rhythm, turns Cry Macho into an elegy. It is evident that the director and actor knows his limits and beyond the explanatory dialogues with small great moments of simple exhaustion.
Eastwood’s Milko is an old man and knows that he is likely to go a long way with Rafa even if it is the last thing he does. So he struggles, he prints a sense of anguish and power that amazes with his precision. Nearly a hundred years old, Eastwood still has the strength to give its stories an inevitable identity. An endearing power that amazes with its strength.
Halfway between the road trip and also a sensitive Western, Cry Macho could well be Eastwood’s farewell. But like Milko, who knows exactly where she is going and what she wants to get, Cry Macho is a look into the world of Eastwood. To his precision as a director of persistent intelligence and stubborn integrity that is undoubtedly his hallmark.
For the last scene, the movie leaves a bittersweet taste. Will it be Milko’s last trip? Eastwood’s latest movie? The film does not clarify anything similar but leaves in its wake the almost tender feeling of a late, elegant and sophisticated goodbye of profound sobriety.