'No Dress Code Required': Film Review

Courtesy of Human Rights Watch Festival
A moving portrait of love conquering all.

Cristina Herrera Borquez's documentary chronicles the efforts of a gay Mexican couple to get legally married.

Powerful love permeates Cristina Herrera Boquez’s documentary about a same-sex couple in Baja California, Mexico who defy their local government and wage a legal fight to get married. And long before the movie’s over you’ll be as much in love with its subjects as they obviously are with each other. Although its central issue is sadly familiar (but hopefully won’t be for much longer), No Dress Code Required offers a heartwarming affirmation that decency sometimes prevails. The film, recently featured at New York City’s Human Rights Watch Festival, will be released theatrically later this year.

Victor and Fernandez, who own and run a beauty shop together, decided to get married in 2013 after being together for nearly a decade. It seemed easy enough, since the Mexican Supreme Court had recently declared gay marriage legal. Unfortunately, the independent state in which they lived had defied the ruling. Both its governor and the mayor of Mexicali, where the two men lived, declared their opposition to same-sex marriage on religious grounds. While the couple could easily have traveled to Mexico City to get hitched as others had done before, they decided out of principle to fight it out where they lived.

“We want that protection that marriage gives you,” declares Victor. The film chronicles their relationship, from their first awkward meeting at a bar — Fernandez, having spotted Victor from a distance, sent him a beer, only to have it returned — through their decision to marry and the intense legal battles that followed over the course of two years. The men had the support of friends and family, as well as their customers, including, ironically, many women they had coiffed in preparation for their own marriages.

The legal proceedings often take on a surreal, Kafkaesque quality, such as when the clearly homophobic authorities attempt to force the two men to undergo mental testing to determine if they have dementia. But there’s no shortage of humor in the film as well. In one of the more amusing scenes, Victor and Fernandez take a mandatory pre-marriage class whose curriculum could have been designed in the 1950s.

No Dress Code Required benefits immeasurably from the charisma exuded by its central figures, who display a strong sense of humor throughout their travails. Whether talking about childhoods in which they struggled with their sexuality or describing how their feelings for each other have only grown over the years, Victor and Fernandez prove so endearing that you become thoroughly swept up in their struggle. It makes the film’s — spoiler alert — happy ending all the more joyous.

Production: La Cleta Films
Distributor: Outsider Pictures
Director-screenwriter-producer: Cristina Herrera Borquez
Directors of photography: Cristina Herrera Borquez, Cristina Flores Valenzuela
Music: Gustavo Pomeranec
Editors: Javier Campos Lopez, Cristina Herrera Borquez

92 minutes

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