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GUEROS(director: Alonso Ruiz Palacios; screenwriters: Gibran Portela; cinematographer: Damian Garcia; editors: Yibran Asuad, Ana Garcia; music: Tomas Barreiro; cast: Tenoch Huerta (Sombra), Sebastián Aguirre (Tomás) Ilse Salas (Ana), Leonardo Ortizgris (Santos); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ramiro Ruiz; Kino Lorber (Catatonia Cine); 2014-Mexico-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“A good one, though at times rather grim for a playful comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The indie movie’s title is Mexican slang for those with light skin, such as the middle-class protagonists featured. It’s set in 1999, in Mexico City, when the students rebel against the university.

The black-and-white debut feature of Mexican directorAlonso Ruiz Palacios is a good one, though at times rather grim for a playful comedy. It’s co-written by the director and Gibran Portela.

It opens in the coastal city of Vera Cruz, as the light-skinned 13-year-old Tomás (Sebastián Aguirre) has dropped a water balloon from his rooftop onto the head of a passing stranger. His dark-skinned mom thereby sends the troubled kid to Mexico City to live with his more mature university student older brother Sombra (Tenoch Huerta). Sombra is a withdrawn scholar, who refuses to aid his fellow students in their demonstrations against the school administration. He lives in a filthy high-rise apartment with his roommate, Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris).

Ana (Ilse Salas) is the politically committed to the student cause radio DJ Tomás has a futile crush on, as he welcomes the protest movement with open arms to impress her. These three are all gueros and are curious about the legendary (fictional) Bob Dylan-like protest singer Epigmenio Cruz of the 1960s, who has mysteriously vanished. His music was soothing to Tomás as a child.

The melodrama turns into a road movie, as during the student strike the foursome of Ana, the roommates and the brothers, drive aimlessly around at a leisurely pace hoping to track down the reclusive legend. In their search, the group attends a pool party for the wealthy that references La Dolce Vita, and it also awkwardly but somewhat interestingly goes Godardian on us by eschewing story in favor of turning it into a bizarre character study in the style of a free-wheeling French New Wave film.

The film, with a healthy dose of love for the past youth movements, is uneven, but when it works we see a promising career ahead for Alonso Ruiz Palacios if he can put things together more cohesively and still has the nerve to follow his gut feelings of taking chances to go against convention.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”