When a man in his 90s appears on screen, you are damn sure he means no funny business. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood are a rare breed of artists who make you believe that Cinema is beyond entertainment and money. Now, I know Eastwood’s Cry Macho is not a perfectly entertaining or moving film. But I respect this man’s hustle.
Alfredo said in Cinema Paradiso, “Whatever you end up doing, love it.” And, I believe, Clint Eastwood is the only living filmmaker who follows it. His films are not about money or stardom, but he wants to express something like a pure-hearted storyteller. He wants to change the world through his films, one soul at a time, and Cry Macho does that.
Directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, Cry Macho is an adaptation of N. Richard Nash’s novel of the same name. The plot follows an aged rodeo star who embarks on a road journey to reunite a son with his father.
‘Cry Macho’ Plot Summary
In 1979, a former rodeo star, Michael “Mike” Milo (Clint Eastwood), trains and breeds horses at a stadium run by Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam). However, when an unbothered and careless Mike arrives late for work, Howard fires him from the job.
A visual depicts Mike’s legacy who was once a rodeo star in Galveston, Texas. But Mike broke his back in the Lone Star event and lost his touch. The tragedy followed, and Mike lost his wife and son in a car accident. With nothing left to look up to, Mike wasted his life on booze and pills. He lived a life without motive.
A year later, Howard Polk visits Mike’s abode and hires him for an odd job. Howard has a 13-year old son, Rafael’ Rafo’ (Eduardo Minett), who lives in Mexico City with his mother, Leta (Fernanda Urrejola). Howard wants to get Rafo out of Mexico to live with him in Texas. He believes Leta physically abuses the kid. However, Howard has legal issues in Mexico and thus cannot contact the authorities nor physically visit Rafo. Thus, he requests Mike to kidnap the kid.
Mike is hesitant. But Howard reminds him of all the help and support he showered upon Mike when he suffered a tragedy. In times of need, Howard didn’t cut Mike loose, and Mike owes him for that. To return the favor, Mike reluctantly embarks on a journey to kidnap Rafo and bring him back to Texas.
‘Cry Macho’ Ending Explained
When Mike arrived in Mexico City and met Rafo’s wicked mother, Peta, he realized that the kid needed to be rescued. However, before Mike could take the kid, Peta’s lover-turned-bodyguard, Aurelio, kicked him out. Mike drove out of the city and found Rafo hiding in the car with his rooster, Macho.
Mike befriended the young boy and continued his journey back to the United States. Throughout the journey, the pair avoided the Federales (local police) and ended up in a small Mexican village, Janasco, near the southern border, to avoid suspicion. In Janasco, the pair stopped at a diner and befriended an affectionate poor widow, Marta, who owned the cafe.
After a much-needed rest, Mike decided to leave the rural town, but Rafo found out that their stolen car was damaged. They needed money for the repairs, and thus the pair decided to stay at Janasco for a while. Mike, who was incredibly good with animals, started working as a horse trainer. The pair lived a simple but satisfactory life with Marta and her daughters, and evidently, Mike fell in love with Marta.
In Janasco, Mike called Howard to inform him about the unavoidable delay. Through the conversation, Mike discovered that Howard invested in some property in Mexico, and now those investments have matured. However, Peta refused to pay back Howard, and Howard speculated that maybe if he had Rafo, he’d be in a better position to negotiate with his arrogant wife. Mike understood that Howard didn’t want Rafo to shower some fatherly love, but it was all business for him.
The pair left town when Aurelio came looking for the kid. On their way to the border, Mike explained to Rafo his father’s intention. A furious Rafo tried to run away, but suddenly two national patrol officers arrived there. They suspected that the pair were smuggling drugs to the United States and searched the vehicle for the same. The officers didn’t find anything and left peacefully.
Rafo was still annoyed with Mike because he believed that Mike lied to him. While the pair tried to bridge their differences, Aurelio attacked their car. The rooster Macho saved the day and helped Mike and Rafo to steal Aurelio’s car and run away.
In the end, Mike dropped Rafo at the border where his father, Howard, was waiting for him. Howard embraced his son while Mike returned to Janasco to spend the rest of his life with Marta. The last scene pictured Mike and Marta dancing inside Marta’s cafe, “Fondira de la Luna.”
A note on Macho
There was a time in the Cinema when filmmakers only made films when they had something to say. Or resonated with an idea. And I guess all good films try to deliver a message.
Clint Eastwood hinted at toxic masculinity in his film that wants men (cowboys) to be macho. Throughout the film, Rafo aspired to be manly, a rodeo, or a cowboy, to be precise. He was fascinated by his father’s ranch and the manly image of Mike, but in the end, he called Mike “weak,” as if being weak is disgraceful.
At this point, Mike explained that the macho thing is overrated. People try to act macho to flaunt their masculinity. And in the pursuit of it, they ride a bull (rodeo) or a horse (cowboy). Mike used his own life as an example, revealing that he was the center of attention when he was a famous rodeo performer and thought he had all the answers. But in old age, the profession means nothing to him. It was idiotic. It didn’t do any good to him nor the human world. The subtle suggestion could hint at Eastwood’s cowboy filmography (only if one wants to connect dots).
The film’s title, “Cry Macho,” is a statement in itself. Eastwood wants you to understand that it is okay to be weak and okay for a macho man to cry.
Cry Macho is a 2021 neo-western drama directed by Clint Eastwood. The film is based on a 1975 novel written by N. Richard Nash.