Güeros (2014)

Review #1,463

Director:  Alonso Ruizpalacios
Cast:  Tenoch Huerta, Sebastián Aguirre, Ilse Salas
Plot:  Tomas is too much for his lone mother so she sends him to live with his older brother, Sombra, in Mexico City.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Best First Feature Award (Berlin)
Runtime:  106min
Rating:  NC16 for some coarse language and nudity
International Sales:  Mundial

There are not many Mexican directors who have made it to the top tier of filmmaking since the likes of Alejandro G. Inarritu, Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro (also known as ‘The Three Amigos’) blossomed at the turn of the century.  Attracting big stars and big budgets from Hollywood, they are now far from the independent filmmakers that they first started out to be.  On this note, however, and on the basis of Gueros, the first feature by Alonso Ruizpalacios, we might legitimately see the makings of a great new voice of Mexican independent cinema.

Winning the Best First Feature Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, Gueros shares a similar spirit to the likes of Amores Perros (2000) and Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001), in that it is free from the constraints of conventional filmmaking.  It is happy to be operating in a world where the camera tells the bulk of the story.

There’s no leash on its cinematic possibilities, and the result is a poetic work that deals with the individual’s search for identity and agency.  Tomas is a restless boy who is sent by his mother to stay with Sombra, his slacker of an older brother, in another town.  Together, they travel to find their idol, Epigmenio, an old under-the-radar musician who has had a medical emergency.  Along the journey, Ana, a student political activist and an acquaintance-lover of sorts to Sombra joins them.

Working under the formulaic pretence of a coming-of-age road movie, Gueros is, however, so much more.  Its playful visual flourishes and compositions compensate for the lack of colour, in a way that suggests that nostalgia is at the crossroads with modernity.  There’s the temptation to seek the past for comfort, as marked by the relationship between Sombra and Ana, and the brothers’ desire to find Epigmenio.  Yet, for the sake of progress, one must leave comfort behind and chart a purposeful path forward.

Ruizpalacios' work may have a few uneven kinks, and it doesn’t always play out with consistent intrigue, but the way Gueros is shot and edited gives the film an almost mosaic-like quality, as if we are bearing witness to a series of vague moments in time where the tapestry of life—in its stark reality and the unexpected magic of the every day—comes untangled.  In this vagueness, the characters also find clarity.

Verdict:  A coming-of-age ‘road movie’ that doesn’t always work completely, but you can’t deny its playful visual flourishes, which gives it an almost mosaic-like quality.  




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