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I was looking forward to watch this film since the first time I saw the
trailer. It seemed like an interesting idea and it didn't look like the
kind of story Mexican cinema is used to show.
And it, indeed, is a peculiar story. There are some awkward and funny situations as a result of a boy acting like his own father, but on the other hand, the drama of a delusional kid who doesn't really know who he is and feels the need to fill the father role in his family. The real conflict begins when the real dad decides to finally show up after a two year absence.
I liked how the characters are portrayed and also the acting, especially from Christopher Ruíz-Esparza (the boy who plays Abel). The story is told with a good balance between comedy and drama and is really enjoyable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Think, therefore I am" is the best way I could describe this movie.
The Director shows how a child with a mental illness found its place in
this world by assuming the role of the family's head in the absent of
it. Something to think about is how this child built its role in his
head by models found in old fashion movies, and then the film shows
what happens when he found a free way to expressed himself without
finding any obstacle playing the father and husband's role, accepted by
a mother who found in this odd behavior, a hope to rescue him from an
mental isolation life.
Life is the addition of little moments with a meaning and this film shows a drama with those funny and tragic moments of the family.
The director let us see urban art invoking nostalgic moments from past decades in its scenes and little details. He did a great work to catch the natural and graceful performance of the children.
Diego Luna's first film is a good movie about a kid with a mental disorder. The boy named Abel (Christhoper Ruiz Esparza) is the main character in this story about a middle-class Mexican family. This boy take the place of his father (nobody known about him by 2 years)trying to fill out the space at the father in the lives of his brothers. This movie has drama and comedy in an interesting mix. Jose Maria Yazpick (Anselmo's character)deserves a special mention, very good actor. The movie change from drama at beginning, comedy in the middle and return to drama. This is a god film but needs more punch at end to become a great, I noted that Luna needed more experienced to make it an extraordinary movie.
From a brief description, Abel sounds like a lighthearted comedy. A
boy, possibly autistic, takes charge in his household when he realizes
that his mother is struggling to raise her three children. After
staying up all night watching Pedro Infante movies, he begins to act
like a father, taking care of his younger brother and older sister.
However, problems arise when he takes his role too far. The film gets
slightly disturbing when Abel begins thinking he is actually an adult.
There are predictably cute moments that occur when a child acts like an
adult, but they are constantly undermined by slightly disturbing
moments. Don't get me wrong, Abel is still somewhat of a comedy, but it
has a much darker side.
Luna is clearly well versed in Lacan (or, at the very least, he's read Mulvey). Abel's problem is with his identification. Something went wrong in the mirror stage and now his entire understanding of the symbolic order is incorrect. He rejects the name of the father and things get strangely Oedipal. In a climactic sequence, Abel's father makes use of a mirror in an attempt to correct Abel's identificatory issues.
Usually, Lacan is evoked for commentaries on the medium itself. Luna gives the ideas a fresh take by tackling them within the plot. If you've read Lacan or are familiar with his ideas, you'll definitely get a kick out of this film. Even if you haven't (but if you're interested in film, you should definitely read Mulvey's short article Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema) you can still enjoy the film as a bizarre story about a kid who challenges his absent father.
I must confess that during the first few minutes of "Abel," I became
confused. In fact, I almost gave up watching it via Netflix Instant.
But I'm so pleased I didn't.
Truth be told, what prompted me to log on to "Abel" was that it was directed by Diego Luna, an actor whose work I deeply admired when I first met him in his brilliant and sensitive performance in "Y Tu, Mama, Tambien." But I'm happy that I hung on, because I discovered Luna's gentle sensitivity to the struggles of Mexico's lower-middle-class in this, his first film as a director.
Which made me remember my own childhood when I also was a poor kid growing up in western Pennsylvania.
Sr. Luna clearly has a great future as a director.
Because the "truths" his work reveals are "universal."
1. It's Diego Luna.
2. It's Diego Luna.
3. It's Diego Luna.
And if that's not enough to get you to watch this film, you must not know Diego Luna.
The film explores cultural familial roles, mental health culture and stigma in Mexico, and forces viewers to examine the effects of family in culture.
Basically, it's amazing.
The acting is spectacular. The performances are absolutely spot on. Casting was perfect. The music is perfect. The photography is perfect. Lighting, set, and characterization are perfect. Per-freaking-fection.
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