Adapted from Jim Kierstead's stage play by co-directors Carlos Rafael Betancourt and Oscar Ernesto Ortega, Borrowed is an unusual beast of a film that starts off seemingly as a psychological thriller as David (Jonathan Del Arco) a reclusive artist living in the Florida Keys, welcomes the young, edgy, and openly gay Justin (Hector Medina) into his home for what at first appears to be a rather benign "date" of sorts, dinner and a portrait.
The evening takes its twists and turns, a cat-and-mouse game that at times feels harrowing and other times feels surprisingly sensual in manifestation as David's life and intentions are revealed and Justin is both repelled by and drawn to the troubled yet intriguing David. The two have, at various times, opportunities to leave one another yet by fate and by force are continuously held together in ways that some will understand and some will simply reject.
Borrowed is part psychological thriller and part intense interpersonal drama, a film that depends almost entirely upon its small, intimate cast to understand the material and a film that benefits from the fact that both Del Arco and Medina clearly do and absolutely soar with the exhilarating and on occasion slightly controversial material successfully adapted from the Tony Award-winner Kierstead's original material. Relocating the film from a more urban setting onstage to the more vibrant, seductive Florida Keys, Borrowed was, I have learned, a darker story on stage though it must be noted that the film certainly maintains a darkness amidst its sensuality. This most certainly isn't the kind of story you're going to see on the Hallmark Channel, though I have to say that's kind of a pity.
Jonathan Del Arco is riveting as David, a bit of a tortured soul and control seeker living a life that is slowly revealed to Justin with equal parts repulsion and compassion.
Some will say the compassion is unearned. They are wrong.
As Justin, Hector Medina refuses to easily reveal his character's intentions and instead slowly builds Justin's character arc and transformation over the course of the film. Medina's is a performance of masterful subtlety and rich honesty.
Wisely capitalizing on the natural light of the Florida Keys, Ortega's lensing for the film is intimate, at times intimidatingly so, and draws us into this ever-changing story that worries less about believability and more about relationship.
What does that mean? Not all relationships are believable or logical or understandable. Sometimes, they just are.
Confidently co-directed by Ortega and Betancourt (The Last Rafter), Borrowed isn't likely to be a film for everyone as its tonal shifts can easily be misunderstood and psychologically challenging. For those who embrace thoughtful, engaging indie cinema, however, Borrowed is a strong character-driven psychological drama that feels achingly personal and yet universal in themes of empathy, forgiveness, and the healing power of love.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic