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A painfully beautiful portrait of childhood trauma
So I just watched the film Tigers are not Afraid at the movie theater. Honestly I knew nothing about this film whatsoever going in. I had no real expectations about what the film was even about. I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable film surprises I've had in 2019 and an absolute must watch.
The film followed a young girl and her group of orphaned friends as they attempt to navigate the dark corridors of the streets all the while evading the Mexican cartel and the ghosts they lefr behind. Of course the film also threw in Pan Labyrinth like fantasy horror segments that were dark and haunting at the same time. The plot had multiple layers, but ultimately explored the stark and very real devastation the drug wars have had and what happens to those individuals who have lost everything. It's a painfully poignant emotional journey that will leave you reeling with a combination of suspense, horror, fantasy, and drama.
The film's greatest strength of the film is the way it humanizes the entire death and destruction of the Mexican cartel by focusing on the group of kids left orphaned. The film is an excellent case study on the effects of trauma on a child's psyche and what the human mind will try to do to cope with tragedy. The film told such a deeply personal story in such a unique and captivating manner it would be hard not to be moved by the film.
Of course I have to comment on the directing choices of the film. The comparison to Pan's Labyrinth has to be made as both films take a dark and depressing story and somehow attach a fairytale like look at a child's imagination. The film made excellent use of this plot device, mixing in just enough quality horror CGI to push the story without feeling overwhelming. There are no terrifying CGI monsters in this film. The monsters are purely human beings and what we're capable of.
The film truly was a work of passion by the director and those involved and it shows. The children actors were all outstanding and added a level of realism that felt completely immersive. The film and the locations chosen felt almost dystopian in their portrayal, but ultimately reflected just how destructive the drug war really is. In every way the film was designed to completely envelop you and made you feel for the very real struggle the film portrayed.
The only complaint I have regarding the film deals more with just how much the film tried to accomplish. The movie fits so much in its short time span it's easy to feel overwhelmed. The horror elements could have been more intense overall, but really the film was never trying to be a traditional horror film in the first place.
Tigers are not afraid is easily the biggest surprise I've had this year at the theater. It was an absolutely phenomenal film that told a painful, yet beautiful story in a captivating manner that is sure to please. Films like this remind me why I love having an independent local theater. I simply never would have known this film existed without the guiding hand of some knowledgeable film buffs. A 9.0 out of 10.
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